Expert can’t link guns, bullets

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A state firearms expert testified Monday during the first-degree murder trial of two Clovis men she could not say for certain if guns displayed in the courtroom were used in the shooting death of a 10-year-old boy.

Alison Quereau, a Department of Public Safety firearms expert with the state forensic laboratory in Santa Fe, said she tested six guns in the homicide case against six bullets. She said two of the guns could have fired the fatal shot that took the life of Carlos Perez, but not with scientific certainty.

Quereau testified one of the guns she received, a nine-shot, .22-caliber revolver, had been cut into pieces, making it impossible for her to test fire the weapon for comparison studies.

“I’ve never actually received a gun that had been cut into pieces before,” she said, explaining she has examined more than 5,000 firearms in her career.

She said she was able to take a cast of the inside of the barrel and determined the gun could have fired the rounds collected from the victim’s bedroom.

“But you can’t say within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that that firearm fired those missiles,” defense attorney Gary Mitchell asked her under cross-examination.

“Yes, (that’s correct),” Quereau said.

She said the pattern of lands and grooves in the barrel of many .22-caliber firearms is the same, and is determined by the manufacturer. Without the ability to scrutinize the more unique markings the gun would produce through firing, she said she could not be more certain.

She said the condition of the bullets police salvaged from the bedroom also hindered her tests.

Demetrio Salas, 21, and David Griego, 31, are accused of killing Perez in September 2005.

Quereau was one of seven prosecution witnesses to take the stand Monday in District Court in Portales.

Curry County Sheriff’s Investigator Sandy Loomis testified earlier in the day to finding nine bullet holes from a .22-caliber gun in Perez’ bedroom on 15th Street during the investigation. Three bullets hit the footboard of the child’s bed, one lay on the floor at the foot of the bed, one passed through a closet door and into the wall beside Perez, and four went toward the mattress where he slept, one striking him in the head, he said.

As prosecutor Andrea Reeb displayed photos of the blood-stained mattress for jurors, Perez family members sobbed, some leaving the courtroom crying audibly.

As Loomis pulled bedding riddled with bullet holes and blood out of paper evidence sacks, jurors leaned forward in their chairs; some glancing in the direction of the victim’s emotionally wrought family members.

Witness Eric Gutierrez led police to the nine-shot Harrison and Richardson revolver he had hidden after the shooting, Loomis said. It was found under a tree, wrapped in a towel and cut into seven pieces.

The day closed with jurors hearing the 911 audio of Perez’ mother.

Much of the recording was inaudible but over and over again Lupe Perez could be heard saying her son’s name, her cries lapsing into screams, then back to sobs.

“Carlos, Carlos … Somebody help us … Please help us … Hurry please … Carlito, Carlito, Carlito … Do something please, help me please.”

During the playing of the audio, several family members got up and left the courtroom. Those who remained hung their heads and wiped at tears.

Testimony will resume today. The trial is scheduled through Friday.

Highlights from Monday’s testimony in the first-degree murder trial of Demetrio Salas and David Griego in Portales:
Isidoro “Lolo” Salas
Connection to case: Father of defendants Demetrio, Edward and Orlando Salas.
Salas testified he called police around 8 a.m. Sept. 15, 2005, to report his Suburban stolen when he noticed it was not in the driveway.
Salas said he went to pick up his wife from work just after midnight and the couple came home and went to bed between 1 and 1:30 a.m. He said when he went to bed, Orlando and Demetrio were in their rooms and Edward Salas’ door remained closed. To his knowledge, Salas said his sons were home all night.
He testified that the next day his wife Lisa Salas drove Orlando to school while he stayed home to wait for police in reference to his missing vehicle. Salas said the police never came but his wife returned and told him Orlando had been arrested at school.
Salas said he and his wife were arrested later that day after police searched their home and charged them with two counts of receipt of stolen property for firearms that were found.
He said it was the first time in his life he had been arrested.

Clovis Police Detective Randy Pitcock
Connection to case: Dispatched to the Salas residence to take a stolen vehicle report Sept. 15, 2005, but was diverted to assist with the homicide.
Later in the day he said he returned to the residence to take the report and was told Lolo Salas was at the Curry County Detention Center.

Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney
Connection to case: Catalogued what was found when a search warrant was served at the Salas home after the homicide.
He said three stolen firearms were located along with several boxes of .22-caliber ammunition.
Whitney said he responded to an anonymous tip Sept. 16, 2005, and located the Salas’ Suburban in the 1000 block of West Christopher Street.

Former police detective Keith Farkas
Connection to case: Processed the Suburban and a white Toyota Camry for evidence.
He said after conferring with detectives in the case, he opted to do gun shot residue tests instead of fingerprint tests on the suburban because it had been a family vehicle. Investigators later found out none of the state crime labs process gun shot residue tests.
Around 70 fingerprints were lifted from the Camry, Farkas said, and fiber evidence was gathered from the interior. He said he never learned the results of the tests.

Dan Aguilar, former Clovis police detective
Connection to case: Lead agent in the case.
Aguilar wrote out a timeline for the jury, showing the arrests of each defendant in the case.
Aguilar said when witness Melissa Sanchez told investigators Demetrio Salas had threatened her through a two-way interrogation mirror at the police department, he confirmed the two had been in the neighboring rooms and the incident could have occurred.
Sanchez was interviewed four times by Aguilar and he said she confessed to her role and gave a full statement the fourth time, telling investigators she had withheld information because she had been threatened and was afraid.