By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
A Clovis man was convicted of voluntary manslaughter last week. The victim’s mother had hoped for more.
James Rogers, 43, of Clovis, was convicted on Friday of shooting and killing David Wilt, 47, on Sept. 9, 2003, in a mutual friend’s home at 4220 N. Prince Street.
“I just don’t understand why it wasn’t being a murder charge,” said Anita Wilt, the victim’s mother. “Manslaughter just doesn’t seem fair enough.”
A Curry County grand jury on Sept. 26 thought otherwise, saying the crime was committed in a “heat of passion,” according to the indictment.
The conviction carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
Because manslaughter sentencing is so light in New Mexico, District Attorney Brett Carter said he intends on pressing Judge Joe Parker for the maximum sentence.
The court ordered a pre-sentencing report from the probation office to look at the background of the defendant and talk with the family of the victim, Carter said.
When the report comes back the sentencing will be set. The court may take information from the report under consideration when determining the defendant’s sentence, Carter said.
Carter said Rogers testified he shot Wilt in self defense after the victim threatened him and appeared to be reaching for a weapon. Rogers and Wilt had been in a fight several hours earlier at the home, Carter said.
Wilt returned to the home looking for his cell phone, and began yelling and screaming at people at the home, Carter said.
When Wilt was unable to find his cell phone, he walked away. Rogers followed him with a gun.
“The victim turned and said something to the affect of ‘it’s not over between you and me — we’re going to go round and round,’” Carter said.
As Wilt made that comment he turned, leading Rogers to believe he was going for a weapon, Carter said.
Rogers then shot Wilt twice, wounds that led to his death.
Carter said the two got into a heated argument hours before the shooting because Wilt had broken the locks on the mutual friend’s door. Rogers was at the home fixing the locks and asked Wilt not to show up again at the home, which led to the argument, Carter said.
Anita Wilt said her son — who worked with his father at Prince Marina in north Clovis — was outgoing, had a good sense of humor and “was more of a loner than the other kids.”
“Everybody said he was always so funny,” his mother said.
He was also a big fan of motorcycles, and went on annual vacations to the mountains, where he and friends participated in horseshoe tournaments, his mother said.
When he was little, his mother said, he would pedal a little red tractor “all over creation.”
“He loved his motorcycles, his dirt bikes,” she said. “We sure miss him.”
The jury returned the guilty verdict at 7:30 p.m. Friday evening after three hours of deliberation, according to a press release from Carter.
Voluntary manslaughter (with a firearm) is a third-degree felony.
Rogers has been held in the Curry County Adult Detention center on a $100,000 cash only bond since he was arrested last year, according to the press release.
CNJ staff writer David Irvin contributed to this report.