Prosecution scores victory ahead of trial in Jacqueline Vigil murder case

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There was a development in a high-profile Albuquerque murder case on Thursday, as prosecutors scored a victory in court.

They want to convict Luis Talamantes-Romero, the man they say shot and killed Jacqueline Vigil at her home nearly three and a half years ago.

A trial is set to begin April 17.

In a hearing Thursday, a judge squashed the defense’s attempt to limit the evidence the prosecution said it plans on showing.

Vigil was the mother of two state police officers. Investigators say Talamantes-Romero shot and killed her in her Albuquerque driveway. She was leaving for a routine trip to the gym that morning in 2019.

Investigators said Talamantes-Romero was attempting a crime spree, looking to rob people and steal cars when he approached Vigil. He’s facing up to life in prison for her murder.

In a motion discussed in the hearing, the defense accused the prosecution of working too slowly, saying the state missed deadlines.

“I’m just trying to adhere to the orders of the court, and I don’t think Mr. Duran has complied with those,” said Kathleen Rhinehart, Talamantes-Romero’s defense attorney, referencing the prosecutor.

The defense’s hope was for the judge to rule that many witnesses wouldn’t be allowed to testify. The defense called those witnesses “important” and “major,” and they would testify about the facts of the case.

The result was a setback for the defense, as the judge denied the motion.

In the hearing, prosecutors gave details about evidence from earlier that fateful morning, evidence they said shows Talamantes-Romero was motivated to carry out an all-out crime spree.

“This was an ongoing act that helps identify who this individual is,” said John Duran, representing the state of New Mexico. “This was not, in fact, an accident.”

Investigators have said they believe Talamantes-Romero had used cocaine earlier that morning, but in Thursday’s hearing, the judge ruled prosecutors cannot use that as evidence.

Many other people have been arrested in the case, including some of the suspect’s friends and family. Investigators believe they were either there that day or helped him get rid of evidence or avoid law enforcement.

The case caught national attention, as Vigil’s husband, Sam, visited then-President Donald Trump at the White House in 2020.

“Every time I go to bed, every time I go out into the driveway. That memory comes back, and it haunts me,” Sam Vigil said while standing at a podium during that visit.

He also spoke at the Republican National Convention later that year and has pushed for more tough-on-crime initiatives in Albuquerque.

Two months before Jacque Vigil’s murder, U.S. officials deported Talamantes-Romero. ICE agents later arrested him in San Antonio, Texas. He faces a federal charge for coming back into the U.S. illegally, which could mean up to 20 years in prison.