Vigil’s competency questioned in 2020 murder of Woodman

Nathan Vigil

A trial in the case of Nathan Vigil, who has been charged for his alleged connection with the July 11, 2020, murder of Alamosa resident Jon Woodman, has been scheduled to last for 14 days beginning on Oct. 30. But questions raised in June about Vigil’s competency may either delay that trial for the third time or set the case on an entirely different trajectory.

A status hearing scheduled for Sept. 19 might indicate which path it will be.

Vigil’s progression through the judicial system has been a perfect storm of obstacles largely related to timing and circumstances unrelated to the case, not the least of which included Vigil’s arrest and subsequent charges filed during the same time the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office was transitioning from former DA Bob Willett to DA Alonzo Payne.

Payne, who resigned and was dismissed for unrelated actions, assumed his position with less than a full staff of prosecutors. Vigil was only one of two dozen felony cases awaiting adjudication.

After a month’s delay requested by the prosecution, the preliminary hearing was held in May of 2021 with seven charges — murder in the first degree (felony 1), murder in the second degree (felony 2), robbery (felony 4), theft (misdemeanor 2), tampering with a deceased human body (felony 3), tampering with physical evidence (felony 6) and aggravated motor vehicle theft (felony 5) — bound over to district court.

The murder in the first degree and robbery charges were dismissed.

In the months that followed the preliminary, there were multiple continuances. Defense counsel stated they were conducting their own investigations, which continued proceedings by four months.

There was another two-month continuance when the prosecutor did not file a writ in time to have Vigil transferred to a location where he could be present for court via Webex.

In January of 2022, the pending retirement of District Judge Martin Gonzales delayed the case until April. He said Vigil should wait to enter a not guilty plea until the judge who would preside over the case following Gonzales’ departure was in place.

When District Judge Kimberly Cortez took over in April, she set a trial date for August of 2022. In a hearing on July 18, defense counsel informed the court that a resolution had been reached in the case. However, that resolution had been agreed to by Payne, who had resigned four days prior.

The new prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office assigned to the case indicated she was not in favor of the plea agreement but there was a question of whether the DA’s office would be forced to comply. An attorney representing the family of the victim said they opposed the plea agreement, as well.

The plea deal also contained sentencing stipulations — something judges had repeatedly told Payne would not be accepted. Judge Cortez reiterated that same statement in court. In August, Judge Cortez rejected the plea deal and set a new January 2023 date for trial.

In September, before the trial could begin, Vigil said he wanted to represent himself in court. Cortez ruled that would be “unfair” and the case was continued until a new defense attorney could be appointed.

In December of 2022, the new defense attorney assigned to the case requested the trial set for January be continued. The prosecution, which now included DA Anne Kelly after her appointment several months earlier, did not object to the continuance. A second trial date was set for June of 2023.

In February of 2023, three months after the new trial date was set, defense counsel requested a change of venue. After hearing arguments in court and reviewing written responses to the motion filed by counsel, Cortez denied the change of venue.

In June, with the trial date approaching, defense counsel requested another continuance. A third trial date was set for Oct. 30, which is still on the docket.

But, also in June, a motion was filed by defense counsel questioning Vigil’s competency to stand trial, which prompted the order for a psychological evaluation to be conducted by the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo (CMHIP). At that time, the prosecution echoed those same questions about Vigil’s competency.

As has been reported in the Valley Courier, a staffing shortage at CMHIP has resulted in a massive backlog of psychological evaluations, delaying court proceedings by months and, in some cases, years.

Last month, the motion was filed for the evaluation of Vigil’s competency to be conducted in person in the facility where Vigil is currently being held. On Aug. 25, Judge Cortez granted that motion and scheduled a status hearing for Sept. 19.

Throughout the entire process, Vigil has agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial. He has also had to be instructed by the judge multiple times in court to allow his attorney to speak on his behalf when Vigil has spoken out, making accusations of what he perceives as conspiratorial, prejudicial, and unfair treatment by Judge Cortez. He has also been instructed by Judge Cortez several times that all letters he writes to her must be submitted through his attorney.

Many things could come out of the Sept. 19 hearing. There may be another continuance of the trial if the evaluation has not been conducted or completed. If the evaluation has been completed, the defense could request a second evaluation be conducted, which would also prompt another continuance. Or the evaluation may indicate that Vigil is not competent to stand trial and the prosecution may object to those results which would require a hearing with the judge. Or prosecution could not object to the results and Nathan Vigil would be transferred to CMHIP for treatment.

In any or all those potential outcomes, whether Vigil will stand trial on Oct. 30 for the second-degree murder of Woodman is still unknown.

According to court documents and local coverage in the Valley Courier, there was a formal filing of charges of Vigil on Dec. 8, 2020.

A news release from the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to 4951 County Road 9 South on July 11, 2020, after family members expressed concern that they had been unable to reach Woodman, 64, who was last seen on July 3.

While at Woodman’s residence, ACSO deputies contacted Vigil, who was living in Woodman’s house at the time. Vigil told deputies Woodman was in Pueblo but refused to allow deputies on the property to verify this information.

Deputies began investigating Woodman as a missing person. On July 12, ACSO deputies were called to Woodman’s for a disturbance in progress. Once on scene, deputies were in contact with members of Woodman’s family who had entered the property and located a buried body near the residence. The body was later identified as Woodman.

With assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Vigil was identified as a suspect. He was already in custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections on unrelated charges.