ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A family is speaking out after charges against the man accused of murdering two men at an Albuquerque gas station have been dropped. Investigators say back in 2019 James Chavez was asked to leave the Circle K on University and Menaul when he shot and killed James Ronquillo and Jesus Lopez. 

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The trial ended in a mistrial. Then prosecutors dropped the case for now. One of the victims’ family members says they’re hoping for a re-trial. “He needs to do some time for this. How can he murder two people and not do anytime at all,” says James Ronquillo’s uncle. “The impact on my family is devastating.”

APD says DNA from a water bottle left at the scene helped them identify Chavez as the shooter. But Second Judicial District Judge, Courtney Weaks, granted a mistrial after technical questions surrounding a photo array. 

Another issue with this case? A key witness, the assistant manager of the store and brother of one of the victims, claims he could no longer remember events leading up to the shooting. A statement from the DA’s office, says in part: “This outcome is undoubtedly difficult for the victims’ families, especially in light of the fact that one of the men killed was Joseph Romero’s own brother.”

According to Bernalillo County’s District Attorney, that key witness, Joseph Romero, was not cooperating following his own recent pending state-federal charges. Now prosecutors say they can’t retry Chavez because there’s not enough evidence to move forward.

James Chavez has a long criminal history including car theft, shoplifting, breaking and entering and drug charges. He is currently awaiting sentencing on another case where he was convicted of stealing cars and resisting arrest.