ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Showing shell casings, forensic analysis of evidence tied to firearms, and giving a timeline of how investigators connected the dots, prosecutors presented several police witnesses Thursday in Luis Talamantes-Romero’s murder trial. Talamantes is facing nine charges tied to the high profile 2019 killing of Jacque Vigil in a northwest Albuquerque nieghborhood.
Prosecutors have accused Talamantes 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.
Several Albuquerque Police witnesses testified through the morning, including an APD crime scene detective, an evidence specialist and a firearms analyst. The case agent on the murder investigation wrapped testimony Thursday.
Crime scene detective & firearms expert describe matching bullet casings
A detective with Albuquerque Police, Andrea Ortiz resumed testimony Thursday. Ortiz was the lead detective for APD’s Major Crime Scene team, which analyzed the murder scene.
Ortiz showed jurors matching shell casings collected at the scene of Jackie Vigil’s murder and Luis Talamantes’ house. Ortiz showed photos and described investigators first finding a .40 caliber bullet casing found inside the garage of Vigil’s home.
Nearly a week later when APD went to seize the suspect vehicle in the case, investigators found another .40 caliber bullet casing outside the brown Jeep. The vehicle was parked at Talamantes’ then-home along Pacific Avenue in the Barelas neighborhood of southwest Albuquerque.
While the two bullet casings were made by different ammunition manufacturer, forensic experts eventually determined the casings were fired from the same gun based on impressions left on the casings. Firearms and toolmark examiner Jill Prather described her findings following Ortiz’s testimony.
“What both of [the casings] also have is this firing pin drag, which is just where the firing pin didn’t come completely out of the primer before it unlocked and ejected the cartridge case,” Prather said, comparing photos of the two casings. “We have two .40 caliber Smith and Wesson calibers, we have two round, or hemispherical shaped firing pin impressions, both have drag, both have a pretty decent firing pin aperture sheer, so that tells me I need to go the microscope and look at the details.”
Under 200-400 times magnification by a microscope, Prather said that “the two items were fired from the same firearm.” Prather said her analysis of the casings determined that the were likely fired from a Smith and Wesson M&P .40 caliber pistol.
In further testimony from Ortiz, the APD detective described seeing a burn pattern on the glass of Vigil’s car window, indicating that the shot that killed Vigil was fired at a “relatively close” range.
“Was there any evidence at all of two guns being fired at Corte de Loma?” asked Deputy Attorney General John Duran. Ortiz responded, “no.”
Prosecutors also combed through several items of evidence, including a hat Jackie Vigil was wearing when she was shot. Ortiz described the hat as having a large “defect” or bullet hole in it.
Several photos were shown of the Jeep seized by police in the investigation. After being recovered by police, investigators found the Jeep was missing a hood and roof rack. They were unable to find any fingerprints or DNA evidence on the vehicle that connected to Talamantes or any other individual.
In cross examination of Ortiz, Talamantes’ defense attorney Kathleen Rhinehart raised questions about how thorough investigators were in gathering evidence. Rhinehart noted that a tire prosecutors allege that Talamantes disposed of near the Vigil murder scene was photographed and swabbed for DNA, but that Ortiz didn’t direct investigators to swab the vehicle the tire was reportedly stolen from at a nearby apartment complex.
“Wouldn’t it have made sense to go figure out if there was a report of an auto burglary, where a tire was removed, to go do some further investigation there, in terms of taking pictures, looking at the vehicle, maybe taking some swabs of that vehicle?” Rhinehart asked Ortiz. In response, Ortiz said, “that would have probably been helpful, but we had no… I did not know of that vehicle.”
Rhinehart also questioned Ortiz about how investigators found a third bullet casing inside the Jeep prosecutors seized from Talamantes’ home. Investigators say that casing came from a different gun. No guns were ever recovered in the case.
Talamantes’ defense also raised questions around how police never tested for bleach or cleaning products used in the vehicle. A state witness, Karla Aguirre, testified Wednesday that Talamantes’ sister Elizabeth cleaned the vehicle after driving her brother to San Antonio.
Case agent adds more connecting evidence
Now an APD Commander, Kyle Hartsock described his work as the case agent on the murder investigation. He took over investigation in the case while working at the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office through April 2021. Speaking of the time in which he worked on the case, Hartsock described the DA’s Office as offering more help investigating murder cases as APD dealt with an influx of investigations.
Hartsock described how investigators built the case against Talamantes, based on a hunch that someone else was with him the morning of Vigil’s killing. A witness eventually told police that the potential accomplice was named “Zack.”
Around March 2020, police eventually learned of Luis Talamantes and several possible Facebook profile for Talamantes, who was then described as an “alleged suspect.” Eventually, police served a search warrant for Talamantes’ profile, finding messages with a person named “Isaac Ramirez.”
“He was one of the people that Mr. Talamantes’ profile talked more heavily with, so, kind of indicated that this is maybe a closer associate, they trust each other enough to deal guns, which can be a very dangerous exercise to do,” Hartsock. “And I kind of had a hunch that the name Isaac is really what that other witness meant when they said ‘Zack.'”
With a name and a photo, police found an additional photo of Isaac Ramirez through scouring local high school yearbooks. The school district was able to provide a name and address of Ramirez’s parents to police, which eventually lead to an interview.
“We talked to his parents in late August, we explained what was going on, that we had no warrants for his arrest, there was no charges for him at the time, and there really wasn’t, but we had to talk to him, this was really important and we weren’t going to go away,” Hartsock said. “We got a call about 8 p.m. a few weeks later from his parents saying Isaac’s here, and he’s ready to talk to you guys.”
Earlier in the week on Tuesday, Ramirez testified that he was with Talamantes the night of the murder. Hartsock said during the interview process, Ramirez’s story was “incredibly consistent.”
“I knew the case fairly well, and it was consistent that I felt this person was really there that night and giving a real account of what occurred,” Hartsock said. “Because, he’s confirming things only police would have known and he’s giving me more insight that I had no idea about, that police had never even discovered at that point, and upon doing my own independent research into the things he said, I was able to confirm those as being true.”
Talamantes’ defense is expected to pick up with cross examination of Hartsock Friday morning. Friday’s testimony is not expected to last into the afternoon as Judge Britt Baca-Miller has other scheduled matters in 2nd Judicial District Court.
The trial is scheduled to last seven days, through next Tuesday. After a full day of jury selection Monday, testimony opened on Tuesday with jurors hearing opening statements and testimony from widower Sam Vigil and Isaac Ramirez. On Wednesday, jurors heard about Talamantes relocation to San Antonio after Vigil’s murder, as well as testimony from several police officers and victims of burglaries Talamantes is alleged to have committed.
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.