Damian Herrera

Damian Herrera speaks to one of his lawyers in District Court in Santa Fe on Wednesday. He is on trial in the shooting deaths of three family members and one stranger. A separate trial will be held at a later date in Taos County for a fifth person he is charged with killing: Michael Alan Kyte of Tres Piedras.

Projectile casings stamped “.38 Special”; an empty box of ammunition; bullet fragments; a bullet hole in the windshield of a red truck; blood stains on a white lattice fence.

Jurors in the trial for a Northern New Mexico man accused of killing five people in 2017 sat quietly for hours Friday morning as prosecutors painstakingly introduced more than 150 photographs depicting evidence gathered in the case.

Dressed in shades of gray, Damian Herrera — the 25-year-old Ojo Caliente man accused of fatally shooting his mother, brother, stepfather and two strangers in a killing spree alleged to have spilled across two counties — stared straight ahead as images of the bodies of two of homicide victims appeared on screens in the Santa Fe County courtroom.

 

Prosecutors say Herrera killed his mother, Maria “Brenda” Rosita Gallegos, 49; his brother, Brendon Herrera, 20; and his stepfather, Max Trujillo Sr., 55; after an argument at the family home in La Madera, a rural settlement north of Ojo Caliente.

He’s also accused of killing 61-year-old Michael Kyte about two hours later in Taos County after Herrera ran out of gas and asked Kyte for help, and Manuel Serrano, 59, later that evening outside Bode’s General Store in Abiquiú.

Herrera made notes on a legal pad and adjusted his tie as New Mexico State Police agent Ryan Boone testified about the evidence he’d gathered and photographed.

Friday was the second day of testimony in the trial against Herrera, who faces four counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the Rio Arriba County slayings and will be tried separately in connection with the Taos County death.

Jurors are expected hear testimony from witnesses from the Office of the Medical Investigator and a DNA expert next week, attorneys said Friday. Nearly 100 people have been listed as potential witnesses in the case.

A judge initially deemed Herrera mentally incapable of standing trial, and he was

sent to the state Behavioral Health Institute for treatment. He was found competent in January 2020, but his trial was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The trial recessed at lunchtime Friday but is scheduled to last through Aug. 20.

Defense attorney Todd Farkas — a managing attorney in the Major Crimes Unit at the statewide Law Offices of the Public Defender — said Friday he didn’t yet know whether Herrera would take the stand.

This story originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sister publication of the Taos News
 

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