Trial begins for New Mexico ski champion accused in 2020 murder

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SANDOVAL COUNTY, N.M. – A champion skier is accused of killing a man in Sandoval County two years ago, but was it murder or self-defense? 

Dean Cummings is on trial for the death of Guillermo Arriola in February 2020. He’s charged with murder, tampering with evidence, and concealing his identity. 

“He said I’m in a little bit of trouble and I need some help, he said I just shot a man, and I’m trying to call the authorities, but I can’t get cell service, if you have cell service can you call them for me,” said a witness. 

After that call was made — deputies discovered Arriola dead inside a home just north of Cabezon Peak in rural Sandoval County. 

“It’s very rural the area, nothing but desert. One house in the middle of no where from what I observed,” said Sgt. Jonathan Crespin of the Sandoval County Sheriff Office. 

Deputies detained Cummings just outside the house.

“He was compliant, got out of the truck showed us his hands. The only thing I could hear him was yelling was self-defense, self-defense,” said Crespin.  

Deputies also reported finding an AR-15 rifle outside the house. Cummings was reportedly in the processing of buying the property.

Cummings told deputies he and Arriola got into a fight related to the sale. He claimed Arriola sprayed him with some kind of burning chemical – possibly mace. 

Jurors saw pictures of Cummings that deputies took during the interaction. 

It will be up to the jury to decide whether this is a case of murder as charged – or self-defense.