New Mexico man ends trial, admits killing wife, 4 daughters

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico man stopped his trial and admitted Friday he killed his wife and four daughters in 2016 at their home in Roswell, the local district attorney said.

Juan David Villegas-Hernandez, 39, will face five life-in-prison sentences following his no-contest plea to five counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his 34-year-old wife, Cynthia Villegas, and their four daughters: Yamilen, 14; Cynthia, 10; Abigayl, 7; and Idaleigh, 3.

Scot Key, district attorney for Lincoln and Otero counties, said sentencing is scheduled next Wednesday at the Chaves County Courthouse in Roswell.

At trial, prosecutor RoxeAnne Esquibel said Villegas-Hernandez killed his family and fled to Mexico after discovering Cynthia Villegas planned to divorce him.

Villegas-Hernandez’s attorney, Herman Ortiz, had told jurors there would be no testimony from anyone who saw Villegas-Hernandez at the scene of the killings or with a gun.

But Key said a witness testified she spoke with Villegas-Hernandez for more than two hours as he loaded items into his red pickup truck outside the house the afternoon of the slayings.

The woman characterized Villegas-Hernandez’s behavior as strange, said he threatened to kill himself, and refused to let her inside the home, Key said in a statement.

The woman contacted family members and notified police, who found the bodies inside.

Esquibel said each had been shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle or handgun, and Key said several police officers testified they saw writing on a door inside the home admitting to the killings.

“Forgive me. I apologize to all. I will kill myself too,” it said.

Villegas-Hernandez was arrested several days later in Mexico and returned in custody to the U.S. for trial.