A murder brought down by a new type of technology: for the first time in New Mexico, a jury convicted a man who killed one young woman and is accused of killing another after seeing 3D video showing exactly how the murder played out.
“When there’s an actual violent homicide as there was in this case, there’s almost nothing better,” said Prosecutor Brian Mannal, with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.
On a January night in 2016, Angel Celis, aided by two friends, ultimately shot and killed Abril Lozano at an Albuquerque motel.
Answering a knock from someone she thought was a friend was the last thing Lozano ever did.
“She smiled when she opened up the door,” prosecutor Brian Mannal said.
After that night, Mannal got to work building a case against Celis.
“We knew that this was the guy who murdered this woman,” Mannal said.
There was almost too much evidence to work with, like cell phone video of Celis with the gun used to kill Lozano and remnants of a bloody fight in the hotel room after Lozano’s boyfriend tried to stop Celis.
But Mannal worried the jury would get lost in the 150 pieces of evidence.
“When you’re sitting in a courtroom for days on end flipping through photos, you sort of get lost in the weeds,” he said.
To keep them focused, Mannal re-created the crime based on physical evidence and witness testimony by building a 3D video.
“It’s not anything that misrepresents. This is all based on evidence that was already in the case,” Mannal said.
It’s the first time a crime scene recreation has been used in New Mexico, and it won’t be the last.
“The jury certainly responded to it. We had a chance to chat with them afterward and they said it was definitely helpful in them understanding,” Mannal said.
Thursday, the jury convicted Celis on all charges including first-degree murder, all but ensuring he’ll spend the rest of his life locked up.
“Doing justice for Abril Lozano, this is a girl who did not deserve to die,” Mannal said.
Celis’ apparent motive was that he thought Lozano had stolen heroin from him, but investigators never found any proof that was true.
Celis faces life plus 31 years for killing Lozano. He is scheduled to go on trial for the murder of another woman in May.
Mannal plans to use similar technology in that case.