New Mexico State Police agent Timothy Argo explains the evidence he collected at the scene of the deaths of Alex Rodriguez, and Wesley Griest to the jury Wednesday during the trial of Dominic Murphy. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Defendant Dominic Murphy neither looked at nor displayed any emotion when graphic evidence photos of the victims of a double homicide were projected on a screen just feet from his chair.
The photos showed Alex Rodriguez, 29, and Wesley Griest, 39, at the scene of the crime and at the office of the medical investigator. The Clovis men were found shot dead Feb. 28, 2003, near a county road west of Clovis.
In contrast, family members of Rodriguez left the room crying when the grisly photos were shown Wednesday at the Curry County Courthouse during the second day of testimony that was dominated by expert and forensic testimony of evidence gathered at the scene.
Charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Murphy, 26, faces a maximum of 64 years if found guilty on all charges, which include two counts of tampering with evidence, fourth-degree felonies.
The prosecution’s photos showed a gunshot wound to Griest’s face and various other abrasions and contusions on both men.
Upon arrival at the crime scene, State Police Agent Timothy Argo said a Hispanic male could be seen lying face up, a white male with a lot of blood around his head was dead near a blue Honda, and there were footprints around the bodies and car tracks in the road. He also described a blood splatter on the inside of the driver’s side window of the Honda, a bullet hole in that window, and a large volume of blood in the passenger’s seat.
He said investigators found various items and evidence at the scene, including bullet casings, shoe prints, scrape marks in the dirt, a pair of sunglasses and a hammer.
Defense attorney Roger Bargas asked the agent how investigators tried to find the car that hit the blue Honda at the crime scene. Prosecutors contend that Murphy ran into the blue Honda at the crime scene with his car. Argo said there was a blue paint transfer on the Honda, but court testimony revealed Murphy’s car was not blue.
Investigators looked at one blue vehicle in their search for the vehicle used in the homicides, but Argo said he couldn’t recall if samples from the blue car or pictures of its tread marks were taken. While there was damage to the front of the blue vehicle, Argo said it was not consistent with the kind of damage that would be sustained in the type of accident at the crime scene.
In redirect, Argo added that the paint transfer could have occurred at another time. He said the damage to Murphy’s car was consistent with the crash at the crime scene.
About four months after the crime, Argo wrote a report documenting his findings. In that report he stated Griest was sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle when he was shot. In testimony Wednesday he said Griest was actually in the driver’s side of the vehicle, a discrepancy Bargas pointed out to jurors.
Argo said Griest had to be sitting in the driver’s seat because blood from the wound splattered across the driver’s side window. If Rodriguez had been sitting in the driver’s seat, his body would have blocked some of the blood. Bargas suggested that Rodriguez could have left the car, closed the door and run away before the shots entered the car.
“I can’t eliminate that possibility,” Argo responded.
District Attorney Matthew Chandler questioned medical investigator Dr. Patricia McFeely about the autopsy results.
Court testimony revealed that Rodriguez sustained injuries to his mouth not caused by a bullet. Defense attorney Abigail Aragon asked if those injuries could be sustained by a punch to the mouth by an aggressor, and if that would leave a bruise on the aggressor’s hand.
McFeely said the scenario was possible.
Chandler countered in redirect by stating, “There were multiple hypothetical questions asked by defense counsel (in the cross examination).”
“Is it possible to punch somebody and not sustain a bruise?” Chandler asked.
McFeely answered that is also possible.