ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Jurors have found Luis Talamantes Romero guilty of first degree murder and seven other charges in the 2019 killing of Jacque Vigil. The verdict was reached Wednesday afternoon after more than three hours of deliberation in the case, following seven days of trial proceedings.
Talamantes was found guilty 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.
With the conviction, Talamantes faces life in prison plus 31.5 years, according to prosecutors. It’s expected that he will be sentenced on the state charges sometimes in the next few months. Talamantes is also awaiting sentencing in a federal case for a charge of entering the United States illegally.
Jurors convicted Talamantes on eight charges Wednesday, including first degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary, attempted to commit armed robbery, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence and larceny. Prosecutors spoke of “foregoing” a ninth charge of felon in possession of a firearm, given the verdict on the remaining eight counts.
Talamantes didn’t show any notable reaction to the verdict Wednesday, only taking an audible, deep breath before the decision was read. Jacqueline Vigil’s family, including her widower Sam Vigil, was present inside the courtroom for the verdict.
Vigil family, attorneys react
In a news conference following the verdict, Attorney General Raúl Torrez in part called the outcome “a big victory for the community,” the prosecution and the Vigil family. Speaking to Sam Vigil directly, Torrez suggested that Jacque’s death has galvanized the community to focus attention on Albuquerque’s “public safety crisis.”
“While I know that that is no comfort to the family, I want to you know that all of us who are doing this kind of work, we’re going to take that with us and find energy in that and keep fighting for your family and for everyone’s family,” Torrez said. “Fundumentally, I think this is a moment for everyone in the community to take a moment to reflect on … not just the tragedy that is inherent in this crime, but the life and the legacy that Jacque left.”
Vigil is the mother of two New Mexico State Police officers. One of her sons, Kevin Dieguez spoke about the case Wednesday, in part thanking prosecutors Greer Staley and John Duran.
“We have been waiting for this moment since November 19th, since my mom was taken from us,” Dieguez said. “Its been tough for everybody, the family, and we finally got justice for my mom.”
Sam Vigil also addressed the outcome, in part thanking the jury for “listening to the evidence.” Vigil calls it a step forward, but acknowledged a void that Jacque’s death has left with the family.
“We’ll never fill it up for the rest of our lives, we just have to learn how to live with it,” Vigil said. Addressing investigators and prosecutors, Vigil said, “They put their heart and sole in this case, and that’s what brought what I consider a victory for Jacque today.”
Over the last three years, Vigil has become significant public figure, speaking the case in context to crime in Albuquerque. In July 2020, Vigil was invited to the White House to discuss his wife’s murder amid an increasing federal law enforcement operation lead by the Trump Administration. He later spoke to the Republican National Convention about the case in August 2020.
Vigil said he felt that his wife was at peace now that Talamantes will be “off the streets.”
“She obviously didn’t deserve to die the way she did, and we, through the last three or four years have been trying to get some justice for her,” Vigil said. “So I think she’s looking at us at this moment and I think feeling better, maybe, I don’t know the word to express how she would be feeling but I’m sure she’s a lot happier now, at least, knowing the person who did this to her now is going to be serving some time.”
Reflecting on the process of the trial, prosecutor John Duran spoke about the end of his closing argument, where Duran appeared at a loss for words. The prosecution ended its argument, discussing a jail call where Talamantes was believed to be saying that the person who died was “no one.”
“I’ve never actually gotten emotional during a closing argument at any point, or any trial like that,” Duran said. “I think for this case specifically, it hit close to home for a lot of reasons, I got very close to Sam during the course of the investigation and walking him through the procedure, and so, when we got through closing, and we put together every piece of evidence that we had to convict, it finally, I think it hit me really during closing arguments of… how much of a tragedy this was and how senseless it was.”
Recapping the trial
Defense attorneys presented a short case Tuesday, calling just one witness in morning before resting their case. A former APD detective, Jessie 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.
Closing arguments lasted nearly three hours Tuesday. While prosecutors painted Talamantes as a killer who only cares about himself, the defense argued that Talamantes is a victim in a plot involving the state’s star witness.
Prosecutors with the state wrapped testimony Monday 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.
Last 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 lead the prosecution in the case for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Kathleen Rhinehart represented Talamantes as a defense attorney. Judge Britt Baca-Miller oversaw the proceedings.