Jury hands down guilty verdict in 1993 slaying

A jury has convicted 38-year-old Arnoldo Navarette of first degree murder in the May 1993 shooting death of Reynaldo “Rey” Ornelas.

The guilty verdict was handed down around 4 p.m. Thursday in Portales District Court after the jury deliberated for several hours.

District Judge Teddy Hartley presided over the case.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said the guilty verdict was a long time coming.

“Obviously this is a case that’s been investigated for over 17 years,” Chandler said. “We are pleased to bring closure and justice to the victim’s family.”

Navarette’s daughter, Evette, said she thinks justice was not served, and her father is innocent.

“They weren’t fair; it wasn’t justice at all,” Evette Navarette said. “It was so obvious that all of the witnesses were related to (the shooting victim).”

Chandler said jurors were aware of witnesses and their relationships to Ornelas, “and still found them to be credible and truthful in their testimony.”

Attempts to contact Navarette’s attorney, Gilbert Bryan, were unsuccessful.

Ornelas’ widow, Shirley Ornelas, could not attend the trial because of a doctor’s restriction from an unrelated incident. But she said she still loves and misses her husband and is glad to see the case closed.

“I’m glad he’s finally paying for what he did,” Shirley Ornelas said.

The incident stemmed from a long-standing feud between the two families, according to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry. Officials said Navarette shot Ornelas while family members watched. Berry was a lieutenant at the time of the incident.

New Mexico and Texas law enforcement served a search warrant on a home near Odessa, Texas, in June 2009, where authorities found Navarette living under an alias for some time.

Navarette was also convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He faces a life term in prison and would be eligible for parole after 30 years, according to Chandler.