Woman mistakenly arrested for murder speaks out, sues police and APS

Crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – She was the Albuquerque teen mistakenly jailed for murder. A year later, she’s telling her story while filing a lawsuit against the city, police, and the school district.

Gisell Estrada was 17-years-old in the fall of 2019 when she was pulled from class at Albuquerque High School on a murder charge, then put behind bars for nearly a week. She says she’s still trying to move on from that incident that ruined her life.

“It wasn’t right what they did to me,” said Estrada. “I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Estrada’s attorneys in the lawsuit say an Albuquerque Public Schools employee misidentified Estrada as the suspect who plotted the July 2019 murder of Calvin Kelly, who was killed during a robbery set-up outside the Retreat Apartments at Candelaria.

Estrada was in custody on murder charges until further investigation revealed the actual suspect was 17-year-old Alexis Pina. She’s accused of luring Kelly into the parking lot where two men held him up at gunpoint, and one of them shot Kelly in the back.

Now, more than a year after Estrada’s wrongful arrest, she filed a lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department, APS, and the city. She says she was treated like a violent criminal while detained. She didn’t eat, barely slept, and was repeatedly strip-searched.

“It was something really hard I had to go through,” Estrada explained. “They misidentified a person- a girl that is not guilty of that murder and had to spend seven days in juvenile [detention].”

One of her attorneys says APD could have done more research to identify the actual suspect, and that the warrant for Estrada’s arrest should have never been granted because of how she was identified.

According to the lawsuit, APD Homicide Unit Detective Jessie Carter “conducted an incompetent first-degree murder investigation that involved nothing more than haphazardly presenting another person’s Facebook photo to an administrator at Plaintiff’s school for identification.”

The paperwork further alleges that the detective made false statements in the criminal complaint and affidavit for the arrest warrant, telling the court that it was a co-conspirator and not a school administrator who identified Estrada as the suspect.

“It’s just an example of how shotty police work can deeply impact someone’s life,” said Zoila Alvarez-Hernandez, one of Estrada’s attorneys. “There was no effort to investigate whether Gisell had any history of getting in trouble or criminal history. There was no questioning prior to issuing the warrant.”

Estrada did graduate from Albuquerque High in May 2020. She says as for moving forward with her life, she now has a hard time trusting police, and she worries she’ll have a hard time finding a job with the false murder charge on her record, even though it was dropped.

APD Spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos sent KRQE News 13 the following statement in response to the accusations against the department:

“When the city is served with the lawsuit, we will review the claims and respond in court.

“The arrest was made based upon the information the detective had at the time and he worked with the district attorney’s office and Ms. Estrada’s attorney to dismiss charge after he learned she was not the alleged offender. “

Pina, also known as Lexi Barazzo, has a hearing on her murder charge later this month. Three other people were also charged in the murder.

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