4 Investigates: Prosecutors pause deadly drunk driving case
SANTA FE COUNTY, N.M. — We all want to believe that, if something bad happens to us, there will be consequences for the person who did it.
In Santa Fe County, though, a wait-and-see approach to justice has allowed one suspected criminal to cause more chaos.
Last June, a call came in for an accident with injuries. Police found a mangled motorcycle and its rider on the side of Route 66 in Edgewood near Skyline Drive.
The motorcyclist couldn’t explain what happened. But drivers on the road that day did.
“The guy in the white truck was right behind him. I think the motorcyclist was starting to slow down. The truck never slowed down,” a witness told police in June 2023. “He went right over his back tire. You could see the guy on the motorcycle trying to steer.”
The stories were almost identical. It was a hit and run. Only police found the abandoned truck nearby.
The suspect too.
Jayson Apodaca denied driving but admitted to drinking that morning. A blood test showed he was well over the legal limit.
Police charged Apodaca with DWI and the case seemed open and shut.
But – like his recovery – the motorcyclist who was hit, Eduardo Isasi, said justice is slow moving these days.
“I’ve just been focusing on myself,” Isasi said. “That’s just hard enough as it is to get worked up about how he’s still out and about doing whatever he wants to go do and I’m stuck in a wheelchair.”
Isasi spent nearly four months in the hospital. He broke his back and pelvis. The crash crushed both his ribs too.
Seven surgeries later, he said life at 47 is much harder than it should be.
“Someone is always here to help me now because I can’t get myself dressed,” he said.
Nearly seven months after the crash, the only thing he knows about his case is that it’s not going anywhere.
“They dropped the charges,” Isasi said.
The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office describes it as pushing pause. It’s a way to collect all the evidence before pushing play.
It’s District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ policy for all misdemeanor drinking and driving cases. The policy is supposed to ensure more accountability and increase conviction rates.
In tracking data collected so far from 2023, 4 Investigates found around 50 convictions out of around 400 cases. More than a hundred dismissed cases are yet to be refiled, as of the end of December 2023.
While the office says felony DWIs, like Apodaca’s case, don’t fall under that policy, it did follow the same path.
The district attorney dismissed charges against Apodaca two days after his arrest. He was back at home in the neighborhood right next to that crash site.
“I was like, ‘What the hell?’” a neighbor told us anonymously, fearing retaliation. “I was like what is this about? Why is he out?”
Neighbors know Apodaca. In fact, they called police on him the morning of the crash for something else.
“A white pickup truck showed up at our house and started shooting it with a pellet gun and busted out three of our windows and then took off,” a neighbor told police in June. “That’s when I called 911 and I heard all the commotion down here.”
After his arrest and release in June, he has picked up several new charges – for driving on a revoked license, assaulting someone, and attacking his neighbors.
“It’s crazy these criminals have more rights than we do as citizens,” said Tammy Winters, another neighbor. “That you can almost die and the person who did this doesn’t get charged? That’s crazy.”
So, what’s the hold up?
Carmack-Altwies’ office said they’re still waiting on evidence.
Emails show plans to refile in September with whatever evidence they did have. That didn’t happen.
Prosecutors told KOB 4 they are waiting on a crash reconstruction report that New Mexico State Police said they completed two months ago.
Prosecutors said they just learned the report was completed.
While Isasi waits for justice, so does everyone else.
The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office is expecting to get that crash report next week.
Prosecutors are hoping to decide on refiling charges by the end of the month. We’ll pay close attention to that.