ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque woman who spent a week in jail wrongly accused of murder has settled a lawsuit with the City of Albuquerque. The local government has agreed to pay Gisell Estrada a “significant settlement” in the six-figures according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico.
Then 17-year-old, Estrada was arrested in November 2019 by Albuquerque Police, accused of being a suspect in a fatal shooting. Police arrested Estrada after she was reportedly misidentified by an Albuquerque High School employee, who compared a single suspect photo to an image of Estrada.
After spending a week in jail, Estrada was released from custody as evidence indicated police had arrested the wrong person. Less than two weeks after her arrest, prosecutors dropped charges.
Estrada filed a lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque in December 2020, broadly accusing the police of investigative negligence. With the arrest, Estrada was “thrust into a living nightmare through absolutely no fault of her own,” according to the civil complaint she and her lawyers filed in a New Mexico district court.
While under arrest, Estrada was apparently “treated like a violent criminal,” didn’t eat, and barely slept, she and her lawyers explained in the lawsuit documents. They also alleged that an Albuquerque Police Department detective ran an “incompetent” murder investigation and made false statements to the court.
In response to the allegations, the city argued that the police had “good faith and reasonable belief” that Estrada was the individual they were authorized to arrest. The city and police department confirmed that APD detective Jessie Carter was the lead detective on the case but denied allegations that the investigation was improperly handled.
The case was eventually moved from State District Court to a U.S. Federal Court in August 2022. A federal court filing from May 10 indicates a settlement in the case, but it’s unclear as to why the parties chose to settle the case. Along with the “significant settlement” of $700,000 the ACLU of New Mexico says the city has also agreed to assist Estrada in her record expungement.
Even though Estrada is clear from the criminal case, she said she’s been permanently impacted. In a short video released by the ACLU of New Mexico, Estrada said the experience “destroyed” her life, feelings, and education.
“What happened to me will never go away. It’s a terrible memory that I’m going to have for the rest of my life,” Estrada said in a press release. “This settlement means a lot to me and to my family who suffered so much. Now, I can get on with my life with a clean record and think about my future.”
KRQE News 13 reached out to the Albuquerque Police Department to clarify their position on the case and settlement. As of publication, we have not heard back.
As for the criminal case that Estrada was wrongly accused in, a different teen named Alexis Pina was eventually charged. She pleaded guilty to second degree murder for the 2019 murder of Calvin Kelly. A second suspect, Jassiah Montoya, is serving a 21-year sentence for her role in the case, after pleading guilty to a first degree murder charge.