Former State Police officer acquitted of 2011 murder sues Rio Rancho

Local News

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – A former New Mexico State Police officer who was once the prime suspect in a Rio Rancho murder is now suing the city and police department. He claims there was no reason for them to keep him locked up for years.

Jack McDowell was acquitted of the 2011 murder but had to spend about six years behind bars. His new lawsuit claims there was no evidence to arrest him in the first place.

The community was shocked when Rio Rancho Police arrested Jack McDowell and his son, John, for the murder of 35-year old James Chavez, back in January 2013.

Chavez was found stabbed to death in his Rio Rancho house in 2011. Sources say it was over drugs and that the men could’ve been tied to the Bandidos Motorcycle gang.

In late 2014, McDowell was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. John is still behind bars after admitting to stabbing Chavez.

“A very positive step forward in this case and we’re glad we’ve been able to bring it to conclusion,” said Sgt. Nicholas Onken back in 2013.

Last November, Jack McDowell was re-tried and acquitted. He’s now free and suing Rio Rancho Police and the city for losing the last six years of his life behind bars.

In the lawsuit, he claims the evidence prosecutors had against him was not enough to charge him with murder. On top of that, he says the witnesses who were interviewed couldn’t prove he was the killer.

Because of all these errors, McDowell says he was wrongfully put in prison.

Sandoval County District Attorney Lemuel Martinez didn’t want to interview but told KRQE News 13 that just because someone files a lawsuit, doesn’t mean they’re going to win. He also says the Attorney General’s Office handled the re-trial.

McDowell’s son, John, pled guilty to the murder. He’s serving nine and a half years for it. McDowell’s attorney did not want to comment on the lawsuit.

In a short statement, a spokesperson with the city of Rio Rancho says, “We have not been served with the lawsuit and have no comment.”

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