ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Jurors will begin deliberating the fate of Luis Talamantes-Romero Wednesday in the trial tied to the 2019 murder of Jacqueline Vigil. After nearly three hours of closing arguments, jurors were dismissed from the courtroom Tuesday without discussing the case, roughly 15 minutes ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline.

Talamantes is accused of shooting and killing Vigil, 55, in the early morning hours of November 19, 2019. Vigil was in the driver’s seat of her car, backing out of the driveway of her northwest Albuquerque home when she was shot in the head.

If convicted of first degree murder, Talamantes faces a punishment of life in prison. Jurors are evaluating a total of nine charges in the case.

State’s closing argument

Offering nearly two hours of explanation about the case to jurors Tuesday, prosecutors painted Luis Talamantes as a killer who only cares about himself. Reminding jurors of witness testimony from two people who allegedly to saw Talamantes breaking into their car roughly an hour before Vigil was shot, prosecutors noted claims that Talamantes immediately asked for and pointed a gun at the witnesses when Talamantes was allegedly confronted about the burglary.

“You get in his way and you die,” said Deputy Attorney General John Duran. “You get in Luis Talamantes way and you die. We heard that from David, from Mikayla and you saw it with Jacqueline Vigil.”

Prosecutors spent much of their closing argument weaving jurors through the evidence in the case. Duran acknowledged the limited physical evidence investigators collected, including two matching shell casings and the suspect vehicle. Meanwhile, the state offered a significant amount of circumstantial evidence, including eyewitness testimony and recordings of calls made between Luis Talamantes and his family members that are alleged to describe actions related to the crime.

“Just looking at this evidence by itself, we have circumstantial evidence to show that Luis Talamantes Romero committed this murder on Jacque Vigil,” Duran said.

A Deputy Attorney General, Duran also emphasized the jail call recordings, specifically noting a conversation allegedly between Luis Talamantes and his nephew, Eric Barron. In one recorded call that took place hours after the murder, prosecutors allege that Talamantes is refers to his involvement in Vigil’s murder. A witness for the state, Karla Aguirre said the call took place as Talamantes rode in a car to San Antonio.

“As he said [in the call] he ‘***ked up,'” Duran said. “He is only concerned about himself in that call.”

In an emotional moment at the end of the state’s closing argument, Duran again highlighted Talamantes’ alleged conversation with Eric Barron. In the call, prosecutors allege Barron asked, “was it someone we know?” allegedly asking a question about who was killed. Prosecutors allege that Talamantes responded, “No, it was no one, it was no one.”

Defense’s closing argument

Addressing the state’s case in closing arguments, Talamantes’ defense attorney Kathleen Rhinehart in part attempted to discredit Isaac Ramirez, who she alleged was the state’s “star witness.” Ramirez testified on the first day of proceedings in front of the jury.

Tuesday, Rhinehart accused Ramirez is being the man who killed Vigil. According to his testimony, Ramirez had only known Talamantes for a few months before Vigil was killed.

“There’s no evidence that Mr. Talamantes was ever in the garage at all,” Rhinehart said, referring to the state’s argument that Talamantes shot Vigil while standing in Vigil’s garage. “We submit that in this case, the state’s star witness is in fact the killer in this case, and he has done whatever he can do to get himself out of the mess he got himself in and he’s taking Mr. Talamantes down with him.”

Talamantes’ defense offered no acknowledgement of the jail house phone call recordings. The team unsuccessfully fought admission of the calls as evidence, arguing that the calls were hearsay, and it was unclear as to what the parties were talking about.

Rhinehart did not explicitly deny that Talamantes’ was out on the morning Vigil was killed. While placing blame on Isaac Ramirez, she also offered alternative theories to jurors who may believe that Talamantes intended to kill Vigil. Rhinehart raised Ramirez’s testimony where he claimed he and Talamantes had been drinking and doing drugs before Vigil was killed.

“It appears from the facts that if you were to find Mr. Talamantes was the one who pulled the trigger, which there’s not really any concrete evidence in this case, I submit to you– you have to look at the context of what happened in a split-second, a couple of moments in time with someone who was apparently drinking, apparently on drugs and not able to form an intention,” Rhinehart said.

“What we’ve heard from the testimony is this is something that happened in seconds,” Rhinhart continued. “If you were to presume that it was Mr. Talamantes, you have to look at his state of mind and his intent, if that’s where you’re leaning, and it’s pretty clear I think, from the evidence we do have, is that at best, this would be a rash impulse.”

Defense rests case after one witness

Tuesday morning, Talamantes’ defense questioned just one witness in presenting their case before the jury, calling former APD Homicide Detective Jessie Carter to the stand. Carter told jurors about a review of the Vigil case that he performed in early 2020 and his opinion that what he received was incomplete.

Talamantes’ defense argued in opening statement that evidence was “discarded” in the investigation. Defense attorney Kathleen Rhinehart also claims that investigators were “laser focused” on charging Luis Talamantes.

The claim is somewhat similar to claims Carter has made in a whistle blower protection lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque. While jurors did not hear any testimony about the ongoing litigation, Talamantes’ defense tried to highlight missteps in APD’s investigation in the Vigil case.

Answering questions from Talamantes’ defense attorney Kathleen Rhinehart, Carter said he was was “ordered” to review the Vigil murder investigation by his commander in March 2020. Eventually, he produced a report based on that review.

“I received basically the investigative file up to that point,” Carter testified. “I went through what had been done, at that point, and I ended writing a review. It was a two page review of what I would do in regards to interviews, search warrants, such as phones, social media and such.”

Carter testified that after the case review, he interviewed a potential suspect in the case that he suggested looking into. That suspect was never charged.

Carter’s lawsuit in part alleges that by September or October of 2020, the Bernalillo County DA’s Office told Carter about a police interview with Luis Talamantes. The interview, which took place in August 2020, was in part conducted by the two original APD detectives on the Vigil case. Evidence of that interview has not been introduced in Talamantes’ trial.

According to the lawsuit, Carter claims now-retired APD detectives Mike Luna and Jose Lucero, and an APD Sgt. Ingram violated Luis Talamantes’ fifth amendment right during the interview. Carter made that conclusion after listening to a recording of the interview.

In the whistle blower lawsuit, Carter claims after he reported his concerns about the interview to an acting commander, he was reassigned to a different division. He also claims APD stopped assigning him to homicide cases after raising concerns.

Jurors didn’t hear any matters about Carter’s lawsuit, Talamantes’ interview with APD, or allegations of misconduct. However, Talamantes’ defense tried to punctuate their case by hinting at investigative missteps that Carter claims occurred.

“Did you, in your opinion, was the file complete that you received?” Rhinehart asked of Carter. “No,” he responded.

“And, did you find there was important information missing from that investigation?” Rhinehart asked. Carter responded, “Yes.”

In response to Carter’s testimony, prosecutors tried to highlight Carter’s limited involvement in the Vigil investigation. Through cross-examination, Deputy Attorney General Greer Staley tried to remind jurors that Kyle Hartsock took over the investigation for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office in the summer of 2020.

“Fair to say, you didn’t participate in [Hartsock’s] investigation at all?” Staley ask. “No, I had nothing to do with it after I did the one interview, and presented the commander with that review.”

Prior testimony

Prosecutors with the state wrapped testimony yesterday by playing jail house phone call recordings between Luis Talamantes, his nephew Eric Barron, and other family members. According to the prosecution, at least one of the recordings suggests Talamantes admits culpability in Vigil’s killing. Recorded hours after the murder, a voice purported to be Talamantes says “I didn’t even know her,” while discussing other matters thought to be related to the shooting.

Proceedings began in front of jurors last Tuesday, April 18, with opening statements and key testimony from Vigil’s widower Sam Vigil and Talamantes’ alleged accomplice Isaac Ramirez. On Wednesday, a friend of Talamantes described the defendant’s relocation to San Antonio after Vigil’s murder. Jurors also heard from several police officers and victims of burglaries Talamantes is alleged to have committed.

On Thursday, police experts explained how and why investigators eventually charged Talamantes, in part, showing shell casings recovered in the case. On Friday, prosecutors called a medical examiner to the stand while the defense highlighted flaws in APD’s initial investigation.

John Duran and Greer Staley are leading the prosecution in the case for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Kathleen Rhinehart is representing Talamantes as a defense attorney. Judge Britt Baca-Miller is overseeing the case.