By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
Wilfred Salas Jr.’s family members put their arms around each other and leaned their heads together as the jury’s verdict was read.
Robert Macias, 31, was found guilty of first-degree murder and shooting at a motor vehicle, Judge Joe Parker told a crowded courtroom Tuesday in the 9th Judicial District Court.
Meanwhile, Macias’ supporters sat near his wife, Angelina, wiping tears silently from their cheeks.
Salas’ mother, Velma Valdez, said the verdict brought her some peace more than a year after her son’s death.
“I had been stressed this year with everything. I was afraid he would get away with it. He’s off the streets now, so we don’t have to worry about him anymore.
“I would have rather had my son here with me but I have to live with that — it’s hard.”
Her son died from a gunshot wound to the head Jan. 15, 2006, while he drove his car on Merriwether Street.
Parker took a moment to thank the court gallery for their restraint in what he recognized as an emotional case.
“I’ve got to tell you there was some apprehension about words that have been passed,” he said.
The verdict came after three hours of deliberation following a morning of impassioned closing arguments.
The case presented to the jury was a circumstantial one, attorneys agreed, asking jurors to believe the witnesses testimony they had presented.
“Robert Macias wasn’t there. He was at Leila Harpold’s house. (Prosecutors) have to do this because somebody was killed on their watch,” defense attorney James Klipstine Jr. told jurors.
The prosecution told jurors Macias was the only one with a motive and that he lashed out because he was embarrassed by the victim’s friends.
“The defendant’s motive is clear. He got punked. The defendant had to prove himself — desperate times call for desperate measures,” 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said. “This guy lives by the streets. He didn’t let it go, he couldn’t let it go.”
Macias faces a life sentence — which in New Mexico means he’ll be eligible for parole in 30 years — plus 14 years for shooting at a motor vehicle.
Chandler said Macias’ sentencing hearing will be set within two weeks.