SOCORRO (KRQE) - The person who brutally beat former District Judge Tom Fitch in his Socorro law office two years ago did more than just put him in a coma for weeks.
The attacker also took the hearing from his right ear, the sight from his right eye and ended his legal career.
“We used to have a lot of engaging legal discussions, and we don’t have those discussions anymore,” said Polly Tausch, Fitch’s wife and former law partner. “So that I miss.”
The attacker entered Fitch’s law office on California Street in downtown Socorro sometime between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2011, according to New Mexico State Police. There were no signs of a break-in, so a detective said he thinks Fitch may have known the person.
At some point, the person attacked Fitch with a blunt object, and judging by the scene, it appears Fitch fought back. Still, detectives believe Fitch was eventually beaten unconscious although he likely regained consciousness briefly, made his way to the front reception area and collapsed.
“His injuries he sustained were pretty severe,” said Wesley Cox, State Police detective.
Tausch later found Fitch, then 68, lying in a pool of his own blood.
“I just knew something was wrong,” she said. “He was so battered and just really horrible.”
Fitch was in a coma for a couple weeks before regaining consciousness. However, when he awoke, he didn’t have the answers detectives were looking for.
“I don’t remember anything of that day and for several days thereafter,” Fitch said. “(It’s) kind of frustrating. I wish I did.”
Socorro police and State Police detectives scoured the scene looking for anything that might help identify the attacker. And they found just one thing of significance: a bloody fingerprint.
“The fingerprint impressions were located in the office were … in blood, so I’m fairly sure that’s the individual we’re looking for,” Cox said.
However, the fingerprint didn’t match any others in a national database.
“It appears that the attacker was intending to harm just Mr. Fitch,” Cox said. “There wasn’t any property missing, (and) his vehicle was still at the scene.”
Police have identified “persons of interest” but so far haven’t found enough information to arrest anyone.
“This happened in the middle of the day on the main street in Socorro,” Tausch said. “Someone has to have seen something. They may not even know they saw something.”
Fitch was known as a quick-thinking chief District Court judge who presided over cases like the Torreon cabin murders in 2000. He resigned from the bench in 2005, however, after he drove a county-owned van off the end of a dead-end street in Santa Fe and into a 30-foot-deep crater.
Investigators later found a bottle of vodka in the van, and Fitch’s breath alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
But two years after the attack, life has changed even more drastically for Fitch.
In an interview with KRQE News 13, the memory problems Fitch now suffers were evident when he spoke of his love for photography and how he likes to spend his time these days.
“I also take courses at New Mexico Tech,” he said.
However, Tausch had to remind him those things happened years ago.
“Tom doesn’t do photography anymore,” she said.
And Tausch said while she’s thankful Fitch has retained his sense of humor, both she and her husband would feel much better if the attacker was arrested and taken off the streets. To that end, the family is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
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