ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Phone call recordings between Luis Talamantes and his relatives punctuated the state’s case in the Talamantes’ murder trial, as prosecutors finished calling witnesses Monday. Accused of first degree murder and eight other charges in the 2019 killing of Jacqueline Vigil, Talamantes and his defense team are expected begin calling witnesses to the stand Tuesday morning.
Talamantes is accused 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 her driveway when she was shot in the head.
Testimony with the states’ final of 14 witnesses began Monday afternoon after Judge Britt Baca-Miller granted the state clearance to play jailhouse phone call recordings. The phone calls are said to contain statements tied to the case. The state played four calls in total, three of which took place just hours after the shooting November 19, 2019.
Prosecutors say Talamantes’ nephew Eric Barron placed each of the four calls from the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) to family members who were not in custody. Several people can be heard on the other end of the phone, including Luis Talamantes, the defendant’s sister Elizabeth (AKA Liz or Lisa), and the defendant’s nephew Ricardo Barron.
In the first phone call played to the jury, prosecutors tried to establish that Talamantes was in control of the Jeep that’s been identified as the suspect vehicle in the case. Prosecutors claim Talamantes can be heard on the recording from November 12, a week before Vigil’s murder, talking about performing a tune-up on the Jeep.
Jurors heard a second call between Eric Barron and Elizabeth Talamantes, Barron’s mother. When Barron asks Talamantes where she is, she responds, “I had to leave in a hurry.” The state has already presented testimony from Karla Aguirre, who says Elizabeth Talamantes drove Aguirre and Luis Talamantes to San Antonio in the hours after Vigil’s murder.
Describing the call to the judge before jurors heard it, Deputy Attorney General Greer Staley said, “This is squarely within a co-conspirator statement, we know she’s with Luis, we know that they actually conduct this tampering with evidence in furtherance with the conspiracy.” Staley continued, “This [call] is the same day as the homicide, just about 12 hours later.”
In the same conversation, prosecutors say Eric Barron discusses hiding the Jeep. “You need to hide it!” Barron says, speaking in Spanish. “It is done already,” Talamantes responds. “You need to get rid of it… hide it, that nothing comes out because I already saw something like that right now,” Barron responds, presumably referring to news coverage of the murder case.
Eventually, Luis Talamantes takes the phone after Barron asks to speak to Uyo, one of Talamantes’ nicknames. “What’s up Uyo?” Barron asks.
“No… I f***ed up … fool,” Talamantes responds, speaking in Spanish. The conversation continues for several minutes, with Barron eventually referring to what prosecutors believe is to news coverage of the murder. Barron says, “Because I just saw on the screen, they are only looking a…. a description.” At the time, Albuquerque Police said investigators were looking for a brown Jeep in connection to the crime scene.
“Were just… the two of you… or what?” Barron asks. Talamantes responds, “Yes.” In the first day of testimony, prosecutors alleged Talamantes was with a friend named Isaac Ramirez on the morning of the killing.
At one point in the phone call, prosecutors allege that Talamantes’ voice eventually says “I do not even know… I do not even know who she was …fool.”
Prosecutors played two additional phone calls from Eric Barron to his brother Ricardo Barron, both of whom are nephews of Luis Talmantes, and sons of Elizabeth Talamantes. The recordings were captured in the evening hours of November 19, 2019 and alleged to describe cleaning and hiding the Jeep and other items said to be associated with the crime.
Talamantes’ defense declined cross-examination of the witness who presented the calls, Bernalillo County DA’s Office investigator Agent Eduardo Iglesias. The defense unsuccessfully fought to keep the calls from being admitted as evidence.
Defense to present case Tuesday
After the state rest its case Monday, Talamantes’ defense attempted to argue for the judge to dismiss several charges against Talamantes. Attorney Kathleen Rhinehart argued that the state hasn’t presented enough evidence for jurors to consider the weighing a verdict for first degree murder among most of the other counts.
Judge Britt Baca-Miller denied issuing a directed verdict on all charges, meaning jurors will eventually consider their own verdict or all nine counts in the case.
The judge also ruled in favor of the defense on Monday morning, granting Talamantes’ team permission to call a former Albuquerque Police detective to the witness stand. The defense says former detective Jessie Carter was asked to review the investigation into the Vigil murder in 2020.
“Carter was aware that there were problems with the case, from the way that it had been handled up to date,” said Kathleen Rhinehart, Luis Talamantes’ defense attorney. “He was basically ordered to conduct a review of the investigation.”
The defense is expected to highlight some of the missteps in APD’s initial investigation. The case agent who later took over the investigation, Kyle Hartsock discussed some of those elements in his testimony on Thursday and Friday.
Tuesday will mark the seventh day of proceedings in Talamantes’ trial. After jury instructions and closing arguments, the jury can begin deliberating the case, which could happen sometime Tuesday.
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.
On 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 are leading the prosecution in the case for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Kathleen Rhinehart is representing Talamantes as a defense attorney. Judge Britt Baca-Miller is overseeing the case.