PUEBLO– The trial has begun in the case of Anthony Cuevas, 37, of Monte Vista charged with first degree murder in connection with the gruesome death of his mother, Maria “Mary” Cuevas Garcia in October of 2019.
The story, initially reported by the Pueblo Chieftain and subsequently covered in a series of articles by the Valley Courier, first made headlines on October 17, 2019 when authorities with the Pueblo Police Department were called to the vicinity of Ivywood and Vinewood where a bloody suitcase had been discovered in a dumpster outside of a car wash. Unable to effectively search the suitcase on site, authorities had the entire dumpster towed to a secure location where the suitcase was opened and Cuevas Garcia’s partial remains were found.
Surveillance video from a camera at the car wash showed a man struggling with the weight of what appeared to be a suitcase as he was removing it from the back of a dark blue 2018 Nissan Versa around 6:42am on that Thursday morning. Roughly three hours later, authorities received the call about the suitcase. Unable to identify the victim and seeking the public’s assistance, police released the video along with photos of a clown tattoo on the victim’s body Thursday night.
According to a 2019 KRDO exclusive interview, family members were gathered at their home in Monte Vista watching football when the video came on the television. They immediately recognized the car as belonging to 58-year-old Maria “Mary” Cuevas Garcia, but “it was the victim’s tattoo that confirmed their suspicions.”
The Chieftain reports that Destia Rane Hamilton, Cuevas Garcia’s granddaughter, said her brother saw the surveillance footage first.
"He told me to look at it and I did. I recognized the car, the way he walked and how he dresses and the tattoos he has on his neck. We all knew it was him,” Hamilton said. “We were in such shock. We knew my uncle and grandma had fights, but we never knew he would go this far,” she told KRDO.
Cuevas Garcia’s car was found later in the morning of October 17 after having been taken to Dionisio Metal and Iron in Pueblo.
Anthony Cuevas already had a warrant out for his arrest on a parole violation after being sentenced in 2014 in Rio Grande County to ten years for possession of a Schedule II controlled substance in connection with a conspiracy charge.
On Friday, after getting several tips from the video and locating Cuevas Garcia’s car, police executed search warrants around the city looking for him, according to Sgt. Franklyn Ortega of the Pueblo Police Department.
That same day, detectives went to Mary Cuevas Garcia’s house on Euclid Avenue – just three miles from where her remains had been dumped and also where Anthony and Maria Cuevas had been living since earlier that fall. Ronald Garcia, Mary’s husband, had passed away on July 13 of that year.
According to KRDO, at some point on Friday, Cuevas returned to his mother’s home on Euclid while investigators were examining the scene. A chase ensued and Cuevas, driving a different car, was able to elude police, ultimately leaving the car west of Lake Pueblo State Park and getting away on foot. That same day, according to court documents, Cuevas allegedly entered into a motor vehicle with intent to commit theft.
Cuevas was ultimately captured and arrested at 6:15pm Friday night at Adolfo’s Restaurant in Pueblo. He was with his wife, Melanie Cuevas, 38, at the time. She was arrested on a warrant for criminal impersonation and was later released.
On October 21, 2019, the Pueblo County coroner positively identified the body and released Cuevas Garcia’s name to the media.
What the Pueblo Police Department did not immediately reveal to the public – stating “it’s something only the killer would know” – is that Cuevas Garcia’s head, hands and feet had been severed from her body and dumped in a different location.
For the next five months, police searched for the missing remains, following up on numerous tips, all of which left them with nothing. Anthony Cuevas was of no assistance in the search and was described by Pueblo Police Chief Eric Bravo as being “uncooperative.”
And then, on March 10, 2020, a volunteer group cleaning up the south bank of the Arkansas River found a trash bag containing the remainder of Mary Cuevas Garcia’s body, which they reported to a Park Ranger.
Following a preliminary hearing in April, Cuevas is being tried for first degree murder, eluding a police officer and criminal trespass. The Joint Witness List shows the state has 146 witnesses that could appear in court. In contrast, the defense has listed eight names.
Melanie Cuevas was charged with accessory to first degree murder in Chevas Garcia’s death in April, as well. She has pled not guilty and, should her case go to trial, proceedings should begin sometime in September or October of this year. She is also on the witness list in her husband’s trial but is expected to plead the fifth.
The arrest affidavit providing additional details in the case has been sealed by presiding Judge Allison Ernst, Division 404 for the 10th Judicial District. The trial is not available for viewing via webex, and is open court, in-person only.
According to the Pueblo County Clerk of the Court, jury selection was continuing on Wednesday. Once the jury is seated, proceedings are expected to last approximately two weeks.
The obituary for Maria “Mary” Agnes Cuevas Garcia, published in the Valley Courier on October 25, 2019, says she “enjoyed fishing and cooking, bingo, gambling, scratch tickets, dancing, listening to music, gardening, visiting with family and friends. She cherished spending time with her grandchildren, Halloween was her favorite holiday and she truly loved her husband and her dogs.”
Many of the Cuevas family members -- who describe Mary as “generous”, “loving”, “bold, outspoken and with a smile that could bright a room” -- have appeared at previous court sessions in the case, and the same is reportedly true with the trial.