NAMBE, NM (KRQE) – It has all the elements of a Hollywood cliffhanger: a senior citizen found dead in her home, an abandoned car in a pecan orchard, a missing handyman, and the ‘smoking gun’ hidden in a tree at a cemetery. It even has a ‘Perry Mason Moment’ reminiscent of the 1950’s courtroom drama noted for its melodramatic finale.
New Mexico State Police Case #2016-23179 is not based on some TV screenwriter’s imagination. The murder of Elvira Segura is the real deal, and it ranks among New Mexico’s most unusual homicide cases. “This one was unique,” says State Police Agent Patrick Montoya.
Despite overwhelming evidence, solid police work, recovery of a weapon, even a confession, this murder case will never go to trial. After a series of bizarre twists and turns, there will be no justice for the victim.
The investigation was launched in September 2016 after a silver Kia was found abandoned in a Las Cruces pecan orchard. The car was registered to a 67-year-old retired librarian, Elvira Segura, from Nambe, 20 miles north of Santa Fe. When officers checked on Ms. Segura at her northern New Mexico home, they found her dead on the bathroom floor.
“The deceased person was so decomposed it was hard to tell what exactly had happened to lead to her death,” says State Police Agent Patrick Montoya.
Police had no leads to Ms. Segura’s mysterious death until reports filtered in about a possible witness. Robert Mondrian-Powell lived with Segura, where he worked as a handyman. However, he was nowhere to be found.
“We wanted to find him to find out … what may have happened to Ms. Segura,” State Police Investigator Montoya said.
The State Police learned Mondrian-Powell’s EBT card was being used at a Las Cruces grocery store. After brief surveillance, the handyman appeared and agreed to talk with investigators.
The 60-year-old Mondrian-Powell was interviewed at the State Police District Office in Las Cruces on October 14, 2016. He said he did not know what the police wanted to talk to him about.
Mondrian-Powell stated he had been homeless about four years ago when Elvira Segura befriended him and offered a place to stay in exchange for help around the house.
“For my room board to keep me busy (I’d) start doing stuff. So, I did. Sort of first by cleaning up the place,” Mondrian-Powell said. He told investigators he also did the cooking and ran errands for Elvira Segura.
But the sometime handyman claimed, after time, the friendship soured. Mondrian-Powell called Segura ‘mean’ and ‘abusive.’
“She was drinking a lot at one time, and she absolutely cannot drink. If she started drinking, she would just get absolutely enraged at anything,” Mondrian-Powell alleged.
He told police of one particular argument a few weeks ago. “She’d start name-calling. Then she’d get in your face. She liked to poke you with her finger, too. She was pretty nasty that time,” Mondrian-Powell said.
He claims the quarrel escalated when, he says, Ms. Segura clobbered him with a TV table. “There it comes crashing down on me, hit my arm and my head … And boy, she whacked me good,” Mondrian-Powell told police.
Forty minutes after officers began talking with Mondrian-Powell, the ‘interview’ turned into a ‘confession.’
“I said, ‘That’s like assault and battery Elvira. I don’t want you to go to jail,'” Mondrian-Powell told investigators.” She started again and started hitting me with her fist… So I got enraged, and I pushed her… ‘Elvira, get out of the way,’ and I moved her.”
“At one point she went down on the floor. And we got into it, and I hit her. I hit her head… And I lost it… I pushed her back down onto the floor, and I hit her head, several times… on the floor, which was a brick floor,” the handyman said. “I said, ‘Now I’ve done it.’ I said, ‘I’m going to go to jail because you made me lose my temper’… She wouldn’t give up on it. She wouldn’t stop,” he said.
Mondrian-Powell says at that point he got a gun hidden under a mattress.
“I pointed it at her, and I told her, ‘You need to really relax and calm down.’ I said, ‘This is enough. This is over.’… She went down on one knee, and when she went down on one knee, I pulled the trigger and shot her… I did see blood coming up from around her neck… I pulled the door closed, and I never opened it again,” Mondrian-Powell admitted.
“I was shocked. It was unexpected… It blew me away,” State Police Investigator Patrick Montoya said.
Robert Mondrian-Powell was immediately arrested for the murder of Elvira Segura.
Agent Montoya summarized the State Police investigation, “I believe Mr. Mondrian-Powell killed (Elvira Segura). I believe he stayed in the home roughly a week during which time he held a yard sale, and once he scrounged up some cash, he left to Las Cruces.”
Later that afternoon, Mondrian-Powell led officers to a Las Cruces cemetery where he had stashed the murder weapon in a tree.
In December 2016, Mondrian-Powell was formally charged with Second Degree Murder in Santa Fe District Court. However, the case would bog down over the next 20 months while attorneys argued over motions, subpoenas, continuances, and witness interviews. Due to turnover in the D.A.’s office, a parade of eight different prosecutors were assigned to the case.
In June last year, District Court Judge Glenn Ellington ruled the D.A.’s office had violated Mondrian-Powell’s right to a speedy trial and dismissed all charges. The man who confessed to killing Elvira Segura was set free.
Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna admits his prosecutors made mistakes in the handling of the case. “The judge…indicated that he felt that both sides…weren’t as professional as they should have been…And I agree with the court on that,” D.A. Serna says.
“I don’t think that the remedy is dismissal. But I do agree that the case could have been handled better, not only on our side but also on the defense side,” Serna tells KRQE News 13.
In September last year, the State appealed Judge Ellington’s dismissal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
The case has been pending before the Appeals Court since last fall. However, even if the dismissal of charges is reversed, Robert Mondrian-Powell will never be prosecuted. You see, nobody noticed the confessed killer has been dead for a year. The 60-year-old Mondrian-Powell died of exposure shortly after his release from jail.
In fact, at a District Court hearing on November 7, 2018, Mondrian-Powell’s Public Defender argued over conditions of release for her client. The lawyer didn’t know her client had died three weeks before the hearing.
The Elvira Segura murder case is now closed without resolution.
“Any time justice isn’t served I owe an apology. … And justice wasn’t served in this particular case,” Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna says.
Was Robert Mondrian-Powell confession in the murder of Elvira Segura the truth? We will never know.