Michael Trujillo, 18, who pleaded no contest to second-degree murder of another teen at a Santa Fe Place mall parking lot in 2010, will spend the next three years in a maximum security juvenile detention and treatment center in Albuquerque.
Trujillo appeared in state District Judge Mary Marlowe’s Children’s Court on Aug. 6 in a judgement and disposition hearing in which he was found amenable to treatment and sentenced as a juvenile despite the state’s argument that Trujillo should be treated as an adult.
“I’m not happy about it,” Marlowe said, according to audio files released Thursday. “Every time I have thought about this case, I’ve wanted to sentence him as an adult, I’ll be honest, because I couldn’t get past the senseless nature of this killing.”
In July 2010, Trujillo, 16 at the time, used a .357 SIG Sauer semi-automatic handgun he stole from his mother’s boyfriend — state police Officer Trace Spoonhoward — to shoot Chris Aguayo 14 times. Animosity between the two centered on Trujillo’s resentment of a friendship between Aguayo, 18, and Trujillo’s 15-year-old girlfriend.
Trujillo and the girl went to the mall together that day to meet Aguayo. When Trujillo and the girl arrived, Aguayo and Trujillo got out of their cars and began to approach each other.
“It was at that time that [the girl] noticed that Michael was holding a handgun as he was walking toward Chris Aguayo,” according to the statement. “[The girl] said that she immediately got out of the car and ran between Michael and Chris Aguayo. [The girl] said she told Michael Trujillo ‘no, don’t do this, you don’t have to do this, don’t shoot him.’ “
However, Trujillo pushed her out of the way and shot Aguayo 14 times.
Aguayo’s father, John Aguayo, recounted the day his son died in heartbreaking detail to the court last week. Beginning to sob, he told how it took three shots to knock his son to the ground, then “looking into my son’s eyes, lying in his own pool of blood, [Trujillo] shot my son 11 more times.”
John Aguayo pleaded with the court to give Trujillo the full sentence the law allowed — 16 years in prison — and said that although Trujillo was young when the shooting occurred, he had a full-grown plan to kill Chris Aguayo.
“This is a man in front of us today, this was a man holding a gun two years ago,” John Aguayo told the court. “Only a man can hate enough to kill, to plot a murder, to steal a gun, to kill another human being in cold indifference.”
Trujillo and the girl fled in his car after the shooting, and when police pulled them over 15 to 20 minutes later, officers found a handgun in plain view in a compartment on the driver’s door.
“I know I did wrong,” Trujillo said after police arrested him, according to police reports. Aguayo “didn’t do [anything]. I was just pissed at him because he was talking [smack]. I know the gun wasn’t the answer, I don’t know, I just … panicked, and he was pissing me off …”
Two forensic psychologists testified as expert witnesses at the Aug. 6 hearing. Dr. Susan Cave testified that in her interviews and prognosis of Trujillo she found he displayed features of an “anti-social” person but could not offer a conclusive diagnosis because of Trujillo’s age. “If you’re under 18, the personality is not totally formed and it’s not totally set, so there can still be some fluidity in there,” Cave said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Doug Couleur used statements from Cave that a person’s personality is still evolving until an average age of 25 to say that if Trujillo was sentenced to three years of treatment, there could be more formative years where he would be without supervision.
“He should receive an adult’s sentence in this case,” Couleur told the judge. “There is simply not enough time until the age of 21, given his psychological profile, to ensure that he is not a potential threat to the public.”
He also said that Trujillo’s history, the nature of crime and the potential threat to society may “counterbalance” what the psychologists said about Trujillo’s amenability to treatment. John Aguayo agreed, telling the court that he fears what might happen in the future if Trujillo is released soon.
“Anything less than that sentence [16 years] will result only in more dead bodies, more broken families and more court time to repeat what can be ended here today,” Aguayo said.
His son had worked as a volunteer for YouthWorks Christian Ministry and was employed at Sam’s Club on Rodeo Road. He said his son’s loss “was a blow to the community.”
Trujillo’s attorney, Gary Mitchell, cited four separate U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have treated a teen in Trujillo’s situation as a juvenile and not an adult. “The one great thing about this country that still persists is that we never give up on children,” Mitchell said. “No matter how heinous their acts may be, no matter the pain and agony of what it costs, we don’t give up on children. And our Supreme Court has made that clear to the court.”
Mitchell argued, and Marlowe reiterated his point in her judgment, that all of the expert witnesses testified that Trujillo is not beyond reform, has a chance of rehabilitation and is amenable to treatment.
Trujillo will be sent to the Camino Nuevo Youth Center, a juvenile detention and treatment center in Albuquerque, until he is 21, Marlowe ruled. He has spent the last two years in the Santa Fe Juvenile Detention Facility, most of that time in solitary confinement after a fight with other inmates and, according to court testimony, sending a threatening letter to the girl.
Trujillo did stand and address the Aguayo family during the hearing.
“If there was anything I could do to bring him back I would,” Trujillo said. “I wasn’t thinking. Truly, I’m sorry.”
John Aguayo filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Trujillo and state police Officer Spoonhoward. The complaint says Spoonhoward knew or should have known Trujillo posed a danger to others, yet failed to store and secure his service firearm as required by Department of Public Safety regulations.
Santa Fe police investigators determined Spoonhoward wasn’t negligent.
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler.