Opening arguments in murder trial to begin

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Opening arguments are expected today in the first-degree murder trial of a 25-year-old Roswell man accused of beating a Tucumcari truck driver to death in April.

Brandon Barela is facing life in prison if convicted in the April death of 51-year-old Ron Hittson, whose body was discovered near Clovis.

The trial began Monday morning, however District Attorney Matt Chandler said opening arguments have been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning after jury selection took longer than expected.

The trial is scheduled for five days.

Police have said Barela, three of his coworkers from a Roswell milk testing company and Hittson met and were drinking together at Clovis bars the night of the homicide.A witness said he, Barela and Hittson left a Clovis bar together and, “went to score some dope,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in Curry County Magistrate Court.

The witness told police after leaving the bar, the trio drove a long way and had turned back toward Clovis when Barela and Hittson began arguing and Hittson asked him to stop the truck so he could walk.

The man told police when he stopped, Barela got out with Hittson and, “went off and started beating the guy with a rock,” then, covered in blood, got back in the truck, the affidavit said.

Hittson’s body was found at State Road 523 and Sugarbeet Road by a passing truck driver just before 7 a.m. April 2.

In addition to first-degree murder, Barela is also charged with first-degree kidnapping, robbery, tampering with evidence and battery.