ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled a late-night search by Albuquerque police was legal reinstating shell casings as key evidence in the 2005 murders of a couple in their West Side home.
The ruling overturns a decision by a District Court judge who said the search after 10 p.m. violated a state law on search-warrant procedures. It also allows prosecutors to move forward with their case against Ronald Santiago and possibly return him to jail.
Santiago is charged with killing John and Bernadette Ohlemacher in their home on Dover Street NW in August 2005. Police alleged Santiago, the Ohlemachers' loan officer, had been stealing from them and used the murder to cover his crime.
Investigators said the shell casings found in Santiago's home matched casings at the murder scene. District Court Judge Pat Murdoch ruled the casings inadmissible because the search warrant for Santiago's home had expired at 10 p.m.
Murdoch then lowered Santiago's $3 million bond to $1 million. Santiago posted 10 percent and was released from jail.
Last week the Supreme Court unanimously overturned Murdoch saying the search was legal because officers entered and secured the premises well before 10 p.m.
"Had the Supreme Court not made the decision they made we would have no evidence," Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg told KRQE News 13.
Prosecutors now have six months to bring this case to trial. In the meantime Santiago, who has been free on bond for several years, may be headed back to jail.
"It's my understanding that the court reduced the bond while on appeal because they appreciated that there was no evidence," Brandenburg said. "So now that the Supreme Court has said yes, we can keep the evidence reversing the trial court decision, we will go back to court and the judge may decide at some point to consider conditions of release."
But Brandenburg said the court also could decide that the $1 million bond is significant and since Santiago posted it, he will remain free. Brandenburg said another issue the court will consider is that Santiago has been compliant the entire time he has been out on bond.
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