CONEJOS —It was a matter of poor choices and resulting consequences when Santos Nevares was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, but he is attacking his sentence with a motion filed under Rule 35 of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.
An experienced barrister commented of the case, “they’re fighting their own.”
The battle will be on tap again at 11 a.m. Feb. 14 when Nevares, represented by the state public defender, will argue that his counsel, a court appointed public defender, did not adequately advise him.
When he was sentenced, he had reached an arrangement with the district attorney, entering guilty pleas to three major felonies including two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree in connection with his actions Jan. 15, 2017 near Capulin.
In entering the pleas, he was advised that he was giving up a number of legal rights, but not his rights to be represented by legal counsel. The State Public Defender was assigned to his case.
Appearing before 12th Judicial District Judge Martin Gonzales and a gallery filled with friends of his three victims, Nevares was advised that each charge carried with it a hefty sentence, the two first-degree murder counts carried with them life in prison without possibility of parole, while second-degree murder could result in 48 years in the Department of Corrections.
His attorneys told Judge Gonzales that Nevares had decided to plead guilty to three counts of murder rather than standing trial on a
lengthy roster of charges. The judge asked Nevares a series of questions to determine that he was pleading guilty on his own free will. He responded in the affirmative that he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not being influenced by anyone outside the case.
The judge told him he was giving up his rights to appeal the forthcoming sentences, to appeal the conviction, to ask for a jury trial and more. His right to an attorney was the only right he didn’t give up.
His only choice, then, was to fight the conviction by battling his defense team.
Presented a factual basis for the charges by then-Deputy District Attorney Ashley McCuaig, Judge Gonzales proceeded to hear statements from the families of the victims and then levied the sentences.
Nevares, now 29, went to a birthday party for Guadalupe “Lupe” Cervantes, who was celebrating his 57th birthday at his home just outside Capulin, and began shooting.
He had encountered the group earlier at the town bar, where they were watching football and celebrating the birthday, became belligerent when victim Marissa Cervantez rebuffed his advances and then followed the group to the Cervantez home after a football game was over.
Lupe Cervantez had invited him to the party and the shootings began about 6 p.m. that day, a Sunday.
Sheriff’s deputies discovered two men deceased, a young woman critically wounded with a gunshot wound to the head and a third young man screaming in a nearby field.
Nevares was arrested after a van he drove from the scene got stuck in the snow a few miles from the site. He was described as intoxicated and armed, allegedly threatening officers who approached.
An arrest affidavit said Jose M. Archuleta, 54, was partially out of a running Ford Thunderbird and suffering fatal gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lupe Cervantez celebrated his final birthday by dying from gunshot wounds. Deputies discovered a pulse when they arrived, but that soon faded away.
Marissa Cervantez was found under a blanket next to the car, clinging to life with a gunshot wound to the head. She was flown to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood and placed on life support, which was discontinued after it was shown that she had no brain activity.
Screaming in a nearby field led officers to Don L. “Kinki” Martinez, now 36, who suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. He was flown to a hospital outside the area and is recovering, though he is currently disabled and facing a stack of bills.
Martinez managed to run from the scene, far enough that Nevarez’s bullets couldn’t strike him.
He is still recovering from his wounds.