High Court upholds first-degree murder conviction for killing of Raton woman

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the first-degree murder and aggravated convictions of Alejandro Azamar-Nolasco for a 2016 killing of a Raton woman. According to a news release from the Administration Office of the Courts, the court, in a divided decision, vacated the defendant’s conviction and sentence for aggravated burglary, concluding that it violated constitutional double jeopardy protection against multiple punishments for the same criminal conduct.

The news release says Mandy Vanlandingham was found in the bathtub of her home and died from strangulation and drowning, but there were bruises and abrasions on her body and a large chunk of her hair had been ripped out. The news release state that Vanlandingham had a domestic violence restraining order against Azamar-Nolasco, who was her ex-boyfriend.

The news release says the court’s determined that Azamar-Nolasco’s multiple acts of battery during his attack on Vanlandingham, were not distinct from the murder. The prosecution, according to the court, “relied on the act of murder to prove the battery.”

According to the news release: “In explaining the aggravated burglary instruction to the jury, the State asserted, ‘Clearly he touched her in a rude or angry manner because he murdered her.’ This reveals that the State’s legal theory was that Defendant committed aggravated burglary when he killed Victim and not at any point before,” the Court wrote in the majority opinion by Justice Barbara J. Vigil.

The release states the high court ordered the case back to the Eighth Judicial District Court for resentencing due to the fact the defendant’s nine-year sentence for aggravated burglary was reversed. Azamar-Nolasco received a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder which requires him to serve 30 years before being eligible for parole. He received an 18-month sentence for the aggravated stalking conviction.

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