An emotional arraignment of accused killer Ricardo "Rico" Sena ended in tears and sobbing after his fiance apologized to more than two dozen members of the victim's family jammed into the courtroom.
Sena, 26, is charged with the first-degree murder, accused of the stabbing death Saturday of 17-year-old Devin Saiz.
No plea was accepted at his arraignment Wednesday in front of Judge Duane Castleberry, who also refused to grant bond and set Sena's preliminary examination hearing for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Magistrate Court.
Sena was arraigned by video from Curry County jail. He was among the last of a string of defendants to pop up on the screen in Castleberry's courtroom, where friends and family waited in anticipation and as many as four Clovis police officers stood watch for about an hour and a half.
Sena said he understood the charges against him and he needed a court-appointed lawyer.
At the end of the hearing, Sena asked the judge if his wife was in the courtroom. When Castleberry informed him she was, Sena, sitting at a table in the jail, leaned forward in his bright orange jumpsuit and began waiving at the camera with cuffed hands.
The two exchanged love vows, then she turned to family and friends of victim.
"I just want to tell the family I'm sorry," said Ariel Ulibarri, eyes welling and her body trembling.
"If I would have known," Ulibarri began, stopping a moment to choke back tears. "If I would have known, I would have… (tried) anything to stop it."
Several members of the Saiz family immediately began sobbing as police officers stepped forward to ensure safety for everyone in the courtroom. Ulibarri and her 5-year-old daughter were escorted to a conference room while family and friends, some still sobbing, filed out of the courtroom into the hallway to listen momentarily to District Attorney Matt Chandler.
Chandler explained the next steps for Sena to the Saiz family.
Minutes later outside the court building, Ulibarri explained she was Sena's fiancé and not his wife. She said she had no idea of the trouble brewing the night of the killing, that she was at home asleep along with her two children, ages 4 and 5.
Ulibarri said she and Sena have known each other about 12 years and began dating about 10 months ago. She said Sena — a six-time felon out of prison less than three months when he was accused of killing Saiz — was recently picking up jobs as a tattoo artist around Clovis.
"He was good to me and my children," Ulibarri said. "My kids actually called him dad."
No motive for the stabbing was discussed at the arraignment. Neighbors at the scene, a home at 14th and Reid, said there was a loud party that erupted with gunfire and ended with screaming and a swarm of police.
Saiz died later at Plains Regional Medical Center. Two others, Jose Lopez, 23, and Havier Bara, 20, were treated for stab wounds.
Sena and an unidentified 17-year-old female juvenile were arrested about 16 hours later by a special investigative unit, including police from Clovis and investigators from Chandler's office and the Curry County Sheriff's office.
The juvenile is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said the case remains under investigation and more charges may be forthcoming.