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Judge keeps Curtis case open for sake of ‘public interest’

December 6, 2018

Whether Melynie Tylan Curtis, accused of killing her 5-year-old stepson at a Santa Fe apartment in September, will remain jailed until her trial won’t be decided until the conclusion Friday of the woman’s second detention hearing in the case.

But one key issue was decided fairly quickly Wednesday when the hearing began: Members of the media were allowed to hear arguments from both sides on whether 20-year-old Curtis poses a danger to the community or to herself and should stay in jail without the opportunity to post bond.

Curtis’ attorney, Todd Farkas, had asked state District Judge T. Glenn Ellington to close the hearing and seal documents related to the proceeding, arguing Curtis’ psychological history, which would be addressed at the hearing, was confidential and that publicity of the information could taint future selection of a jury in Santa Fe.

An attorney for The New Mexican argued otherwise.

In a motion to the court, Victor Marshall disputed Farkas’ assertions and argued the public has a right to know the details of Curtis’ case.

Ellington ultimately ruled the hearing would stay open, in part because current law on pretrial detention went into effect just last year following New Mexico voters’ approval of changes to the state constitution.

“It’s a matter of significant public interest how the system processes these kinds of cases,” Ellington said.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Farkas argued Ellington should overturn an October decision by another state judge to keep Curtis in jail for her personal safety.

In the earlier decision, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer pointed to concerns about Curtis’ well-being, including an incident in which she reportedly threatened to slice her pregnant belly with a razor during a dispute with her husband.

Farkas called to the stand Dr. George Davis, a forensic psychiatrist who had evaluated Curtis in jail.

Davis spoke briefly about abuse Curtis suffered as a child and her psychiatric condition, which includes chronic depression punctuated by periods of postpartum depression after the birth of her three children.

Following the death of Jayden Curtis — the boy Curtis is accused of strangling — the woman started to have “auditory hallucinations,” Davis said, likely related to post-traumatic stress.

In the past, Melynie Curtis had trouble staying on prescribed medication, Davis said, but has had more success with her treatment in jail.

Farkas argued that Curtis could continue her treatment outside the jail if she were living on house arrest with supportive family members near Bloomfield, with mandatory requirements for counseling and psychiatric treatment.

Martin Maxwell, a prosecutor with the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office, called the manager of the Santa Fe County Electronic Monitoring Program to the stand to speak about the challenges of GPS monitoring in Bloomfield.

But defense attorneys objected, saying prosecutors weren’t given proper notice that Tino Alva would testify at the hearing. After the dispute, Ellington ruled Alva could take the stand and ended the hearing for the night. It will continue Friday with his testimony.

Meanwhile, a bundle of search warrants filed Wednesday in the First Judicial District Court reveal some new details about the boy’s death.

Santa Fe police officers investigating the case wrote that Jayden’s autopsy showed evidence “consistent with ongoing child abuse” and possible evidence of sexual assault.

Some of the boy’s injuries “may have been caused by sexual assault, or they may have possibly been caused by physical assault as a form of physical punishment for his urinating and defecating on himself,” one warrant says.

The documents show police have seized Curtis’ DNA, along with phones and phone records for both Curtis and the boy’s father.

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