The Third Judicial District Court seated a jury Monday morning to determine whether an 82-year-old man in Las Cruces is guilty of murdering his neighbor and shooting his wife.
James Theriault, 82, stands charged in the killing of Carlos Picharo and the shooting of his wife, Fatima Ortiz, on July 9, 2022. Theriault faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence.
Prosecutor’s case against Theriault
When police arrived at Picharo’s home on the 900 block of South San Pedro Street, they found Picharo with a gunshot wound to the chest and Ortiz shot multiple times. Ortiz also identified Theriault as the shooter when she spoke with police at the scene, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
Ortiz told police that she and her husband feuded with Theriault the morning before the shooting. She said that the incident led to police being called but de-escalated before Ortiz and Picharo left their home. It was one of many blow-ups between the neighbors, according to statements they both made to police after the fact.
When Ortiz and Picharo returned home, Ortiz said she recorded Theriault with her phone as he sat on his porch.
Ortiz said Theriault shouted, “Record me, baby,” before pulling out a gun and firing. Ortiz said she was shot twice as her husband tried to get the gun away from Theriault. She said Theriault then shot Picharo, followed her into her house as she fled, and shot her four more times.
Ortiz said Theriault’s son then pulled his father away from the encounter.
In an interview with police, Theriault admitted to the shooting but said it was in self-defense. Theriault told police that he thought Picharo was going to charge at him, so he pulled out a gun and fired.
After his arrest, a judge found that Theriault did not have to be detained in jail. He was given a $50,000 bond during a hearing after the shooting.
Details of the trial
According to court records, Ortiz is expected to testify on behalf of the prosecution. Prosecutors also added dozens of police officers and first responders they could call during the trial.
Gary Mitchell, an attorney representing Theriault, listed eight witnesses in court records before the trial began Monday. Mitchell included Theriault’s son and several neighbors.
According to the list, the neighbors and son intend to testify they were concerned Ortiz and Picharo were dangerous to Theriault and that Theriault is peaceful by nature. Mitchell also left the door open for Theriault to testify.
The trial is expected to last five days, but in court records, Mitchell said he was concerned that five days would not be enough time. He said he expects prosecutors to finish up Thursday evening, leaving just one day to call his witnesses.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Trial begins for 82-year-old Las Cruces man accused of murder