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Daily Press Staff Writer
The trial of Matthew Sloan, 30, began in Carlsbad this week in relation to an alleged home invasion in Artesia that led to the death of Timothy Wallace early last year.
Sloan stands accused of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, armed robbery and aggravated burglary.
The State of New Mexico gave its opening statement Wednesday and alleged that Sloan, with accomplices Donald “Duck” Ybarra and Senovio “Hoss” Mendoza, all of Carlsbad, were driving to Artesia to buy methamphetamines on the morning of Jan. 2, 2012, when they hatched a plan to “rip off” Wallace, an alleged drug dealer.
Wallace wasn’t a saint, said the prosecution, but he was a father, and he loved his daughters. According to the prosecution, Wallace received an inheritance of approximately $400,000 one month prior to his death and had made a decision to quit dealing.
The state alleges the trio of Sloan, Ybarra and Mendoza entered Wal-Mart in Artesia at approximately 4:20 a.m. on the night of Wallace’s death and bought two knit hats and a pack of gum. They then cut holes in the caps to make masks for themselves and drove to Wallace’s home. They allegedly forced their way into the victim’s home and found him in the south bedroom, say prosecutors, where Sloan shouted: “Pecos Valley task force! Get on your knees!”
Sloan said in his statement on the day of his arrest that the victim had grabbed for his .270-caliber rifle, and it “just went off” at close range. The state argues the victim attempted to flee and Sloan killed him at a distance with a single gunshot to the right side of the skull.
The three then ran from the house and drove away, the state said, but returned to the scene of the crime when Mendoza realized he had dropped his flashlight in the chaos that ensued. Mendoza allegedly went back into the victim’s home, retrieved the flashlight, and also took Wallace’s wallet.
The state said that before his arrest, Sloan attempted to burn the blood-spattered clothing he had been wearing on the night of Wallace’s death.
Ybarra has since pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and has made a deal with the state to testify against Sloan. Ybarra is expected to take the stand later this week.
But Ybarra, said defense attorney Jesse R. Cosby, is only trying to “save his own fat from the fire.” And Mendoza, Cosby added, was the only one who actually knew the victim.
Cosby stated drug paraphernalia was found throughout the victim’s home, and it was unlikely that he was finished with dealing, despite his inheritance. Cosby added Mendoza expected to find drugs when they arrived at Wallace’s home, and alleged that Mendoza had planned all of it.
“If the intent was to kill,” said Cosby during his opening statement, “Sloan wouldn’t have worried about making a mask: There wouldn’t be a witness to identify him.”
Cosby also said Ybarra did not see the fatal shot, and that it would be impossible for him to give accurate testimony as to whether or not Wallace’s death was intentional.
Samuel Adams, the forensic pathologist who performed Wallace’s autopsy, said the victim’s arms bore “track marks” that indicated long-term drug use, and a toxicology report indicates traces of cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana were present in Wallace’s system at the time of his death, but he could not determine exactly when Wallace had last imbibed those narcotics.
Adams also said there was no soot or burns around the entry wound to indicate Sloan’s rifle had been fired at close range. Adams could not give an exact distance from which the shot was fired but said it must have been from at least three or four feet away. Adams also said there was no powder or gunshot residue on Wallace’s hands to indicate he had grabbed Sloan’s weapon.
Stacy D. McGary, of Artesia, was one of Wallace’s best friends and became suspicious upon seeing the victim’s front door standing open that afternoon. He called a friend, Billy Smith, also of Artesia, to help him investigate.
“We found him lying face-down, like he was sleeping,” McGary said. “We rolled him over just to be sure.”
Smith, McGary and a friend of Smith’s named Patrick Huey, of Carlsbad, notified emergency services, and police were dispatched to the scene.
Photographs of blood spatter throughout Wallace’s room were presented to the jury on Wednesday, as well as images depicting a print of the boot that kicked open Wallace’s front door that has been identified as Mendoza’s.
Sloan’s trial is expected to continue this week as both sides present their evidence before the jury.