Cops and Courts: Murder charges dropped in case of elderly woman’s death

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said he dropped the first-degree murder charges last week against a 40-year-old Clovis man in connection with the 2004 beating death of an elderly woman for reasons relating to another trial.

The district attorney’s office made the decision to drop its murder case against Larry Lucero until after co-defendant Dwight Wagner stands trial for the homicide, according Chandler.

Wagner, 51, and Lucero were arrested shortly after police discovered the body of Essie Thomas in her Clovis home. Police have said her son, Wagner, beat Thomas to death when she refused to pay a debt he owed for drugs.

Wagner provided essential information in the case against Lucero but under state law cannot be compelled to testify on evidence that may implicate him. As a result, prosecutors made the decision to try the case against Wagner first, and upon its conclusion, re-evaluate the case against Lucero.

Lucero is serving a four-year prison sentence on unrelated charges, lending prosecutors time to develop their case against him without fear of him becoming unavailable, Chandler said.

Wagner was committed for treatment in March after being declared incompetent to stand trial, according to court records.

Doctors have expressed confidence they can treat Wagner’s condition and get him to a point of competency, Chandler said.

His mental status will be reviewed every 90 days by the judge until he is declared fit to stand trial.

Attempts to reach the victim’s family were unsuccessful.

The Melrose Village Council unanimously passed a curfew ordinance last week, according to the town’s mayor.

The ordinance states parents will be responsible if a minor is out from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends or 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays, Mayor Lance Pyle said.

Parents of violators could be fined up to $500, he said.

The new ordinance will take effect as soon as it has been published publicly within the next couple weeks.

When brought before the council, the ordinance met with unanimous support, Pyle said.

The trial date for a former Department of Public Safety Officer accused of falsifying citations is set for Dec. 7, according to court records.

Delores Ledezma-Pinon, 52, of Clovis has pleaded not guilty to charges she turned in fabricated citations to her supervisors.

Ledezma-Pinon resigned from her position in April after being placed on administrative leave. She was arrested April 6.

She is charged with five counts each of forgery, tampering with public records and illegal disposal of citations.

According to court records, the people named in the citations were never aware they had been issued — and one man was incarcerated at the time of his alleged offense.

Cops and Courts is compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. She can be contacted at 763-6991 or:
sharna_johnson@link.freedom.com