SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Santa Fe judge has given prosecutors the go-ahead to pursue murder charges in a criminal trial against the woman charged in a wrong-way I-25 crash that killed a Santa Fe police officer and a retired Las Vegas firefighter. Once thought to be a victim in the crash, Jeannine Jaramillo is accused of causing the deadly wreck and lying to police about what happened.

At a preliminary hearing Thursday, Santa Fe District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer found prosecutors presented enough evidence to pursue two counts of first-degree murder against Jaramillo for the deaths of Santa Fe Police Office Robert Duran, 43, and retired Las Vegas Firefighters Frank Lovato, 62. Both of the victims were killed instantaneously in the March 2, 2022 crashed along I-25 in Santa Fe.

Story continues below

Jaramillo, 46, was initially charged with several other counts, including aggravated fleeing, great bodily injury by vehicle, aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer, receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle, bringing contraband into a jail, making a false report of a violation of the criminal code, and reckless driving.

At Thursday’s preliminary hearing, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer determined there was enough evidence to proceed to trial with all of the charges filed in the case, except for one count of great bodily injury by vehicle for injuring a driver who crashed during the pile up. The judge determined that injuries suffered by a Santa Fe police officer, Officer Gilbert Phillip Montaño, were not significant enough to meet the standards of “great bodily injury.” Montaño testified Thursday two of his internal organs suffered swelling as a result of the crash.

Thursday’s preliminary hearing also offered a glimpse into the police chase proceeding the crash, and the first publicly seen video of the pursuit. In a five-hour hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys made arguments surrounding the evidence of the case through witness testimony.

Preliminary hearings serve as an alternative, public method of establishing charges in a case, as opposed to more typical and private grand jury proceedings.

Investigators say the case began after Jaramillo told a person at the Vizcaya Apartments in Santa Fe that she had been kidnapped. Police say that concerned neighbor called 911, reporting the alleged kidnapping. As police attempted to stop the white Chevy Malibu sedan that Jaramillo was in, a chase ensued, eventually leading on to I-25 in the wrong direction of traffic.

The chase came to an end when Jaramillo’s car crashed among six total cars: two Santa Fe Patrol Units, the fleeing vehicle, and three vehicles that were not directly involved in the chase. Lovato was driving a truck (one of the uninvolved vehicles) while Duran was in one of the Santa Fe police patrol units. Both died in the crash.

After the crash, New Mexico State Police say Jaramillo initially told investigators she was the victim of a kidnapping, taken against her will by a man who forced her into a white car that caused the crash. However, three days after the crash, NMSP investigators arrested Jaramillo, accusing her of making up the story about the kidnapping.

A Santa Fe police officer testified Thursday that he never saw anyone else exit the car that Jaramillo was in. A state police investigator also testified that he didn’t believe a second person could fit inside of the vehicle Jaramillo claimed she was being held at knifepoint in.

A criminal complaint shows Jaramillo was charged in a similar case in Cibola County on September 8, 2021. In that case, Jaramillo was accused of receiving and transferring a stolen vehicle, aggravated fleeing, and possession of methamphetamine. Investigators tied to the September case said Jaramillo’s statement was suspiciously similar to the Santa Fe crash, stating a male subject was holding her against her will with a knife. No male suspect was ever found.

Jaramillo has been in jail since her arrest in the Santa Fe crash. Prosecutors filed a motion asking a judge to keep Jaramillo behind bars through trial. Jaramillo waived her right to a hearing on the matter.