Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — The case against a man accused of killing an alleged domestic batterer is heading on to the next phase.
An Alamosa County Court judge on Monday found there was probable cause to bind Gregory Scott Carpenter over to district court. The 50-year-old man is now scheduled to make his first appearance in front of 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift on Aug. 5.
Prosecutors have charged Carpenter with an enhanced felony count of second-degree murder for the April 8 shooting of Jose Luis Fernandez at the Wagon Wheel Trailer Park.
Defense attorney Terry Ryan asked Alamosa County Court Judge Daniel Walzl to find that the shooting was justifiable, arguing that Carpenter acted to defend Fernandez’s alleged victim, as well as himself and his own family.
The defendant did what any honorable person would hopefully do under similar circumstances, Ryan said: He rushed to help a woman in distress.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy countered that the purpose of Carpenter’s preliminary hearing was not to hold a mini-trial.
Instead, the court has to determine if the prosecution met its burden of probable cause, and in this case, Loy said his office introduced enough evidence to suggest Carpenter knowingly caused the death of another person.
The judge ultimately agreed the prosecution met its burden.
Under the law, he said, it’s his role to examine all of the evidence in a manner that is most favorable to the prosecution.
“Affirmative defenses are not a consideration for me at this point in the hearing,” Walzl said.
The judge made his decision after listening to more than an hour of testimony from former Alamosa County Sheriff’s Cpl. Gary Spangler, who said that Carpenter confessed to the crime.
“He said, ‘I shot him,’” Spangler said. “At one point, he said, ‘I saw the bullet go in.’”
According to Spangler, the defendant initially said he acted out of concern for Fernandez’s girlfriend, whose screams for help could be heard inside Carpenter’s next-door trailer.
“At the scene, he stated that (Fernandez) was beating on her — that he, Mr. Carpenter — thought Mr. Fernandez was going to kill her,” Spangler said.
But Carpenter went on to change his story after he waived his Miranda rights and sat down for a recorded interview, Spangler testified.
At that point, Carpenter said he shot Fernandez because he believed the man was coming toward his trailer, and he didn’t want to get into a fight, according to Spangler.
During the recorded interview, Carpenter said he never actually saw Fernandez strike, hit or attempt to hit the woman, Spangler testified. Nor did Carpenter indicate he saw Fernandez holding weapons of any kind, according to Spangler.
Spangler said there were no injuries on Fernandez’s girlfriend that he could see, although she appeared to have a little cut on her ring finger. However, the woman was also missing an uneven two-inch patch of hair on her head, and her clothing was torn, Spangler said.
“She said that (her hair was torn when) Mr. Fernandez had grabbed her and tried to pull her up the steps,” he said.
The woman told Spangler that she and Fernandez began to argue that day because he was tired, following a 12-hour shift at Mountain King.
According to Spangler’s initial report on the incident, the woman said Fernandez was upset that she had been drinking all day.
As the evening wore on, the woman tried to get away from Fernandez. However, he pushed her down a flight of steps and then began to kick her, she said.
According to the woman, a male neighbor soon appeared and told Fernandez, “leave her alone. I said (expletive) leave her alone.”
But Fernandez continued to kick her and hit her, she said, demanding “the rings” from her.
The neighbor, meanwhile, walked back inside his house.
When he reappeared, he aimed a gun at Fernandez and fired it, the woman said.
Carpenter said the shooting occurred in his yard just below the front steps of his trailer, but authorities found Fernandez’s body about 16 to 17 feet away from the defendant’s residence, Spangler said.
Carpenter remains free on bail. His friends and family members joined him in county court on Monday, while Fernandez’s loved ones sat on the other side of the room.