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A year later, police unlock phone that might hold evidence

January 6, 2019

Just a few weeks ahead of a murder trial for 26-year-old Gabriel Sanchez, accused of fatally shooting a Hernández man in December 2017, New Mexico State Police have filed a new search warrant seeking evidence on Sanchez’s smartphone.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed Dec. 26, 2018, in state District Court, state police were unable to access Sanchez’s locked phone during the initial investigation. Thanks to new technology, the affidavit says, officers were finally able to unlock the phone and search its contents for evidence that someone else might have been aware of the crime or even involved.

Sanchez, of Santa Clara Pueblo, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 67-year-old William Jimerson, who was killed Dec. 18, 2017, in his home in Hernández.

The jury selection process is set to begin Jan. 22 in the trial for Sanchez, who was denied bond in the case and has been held in the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla since his arrest Dec. 19, 2017.

State police believe the two men had been in a dispute over Sanchez’s former fiancée.

Jimerson had warned state police that Sanchez planned to kill him, court documents say.

Officers had met with Jimerson in his trailer west of U.S. 84 the morning before he was found dead with two gunshots to his head. The officers were responding to a report from Jimerson on Dec. 17, 2017, that Sanchez had tried to burn his trailer, according to a search warrant affidavit filed after the slaying.

Investigators determined a fire at the trailer’s entrance had been started with gasoline.

Jimerson told officers he feared Sanchez was planning to kill him “over a girl,” the affidavit said. Officers recommended that he file a restraining order against Sanchez and set up a surveillance system.

The document said the former fiancée told police Sanchez had broken into Jimerson’s trailer in late June 2017 and had found her there with Jimerson. Sanchez “beat Jimerson up,” the woman said.

The woman had a restraining order against Sanchez through the Santa Clara Tribal Court, the affidavit said. She told police Sanchez owned firearms and had made several death threats against Jimerson.

State police investigators who searched Sanchez’s home found boots with blood on their soles that matched the prints found outside Jimerson’s trailer, according to the affidavit.

Sanchez told police he had run errands most of the day when Jimerson was killed and then went to a friend’s house to play cards.

Along with the murder charge, Sanchez faces a count of tampering with evidence. According to the affidavit, state police were unable to find the firearm used to kill Jimerson.

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