Freedom New Mexico
When Jimmy Bo Chunn’s body was found in his rural Causey home, no one could have guessed the story of the rancher’s shooting would turn into a twisted tale of conspiracy, a white supremacy group and murder for hire.
Five years later, Roosevelt County farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson — accused of setting up the killing by striking a deal with a member of the Aryan Brotherhood — is found not guilty of all charges.
A Roosevelt County jury returned the verdict Tuesday.
The admitted trigger-man in the alleged plot, Rogers native Donald Taylor, 29, is serving a life sentence for shooting 71-year-old Chunn.
Taylor’s admission was part of a deal to avoid the death penalty. He also testified in the trial against Watson.
The prosection said Taylor shot Chunn in his home around July 4, 2005 in exchange for 500 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, an ingredient used as a farm fertilizer but also used to manufacture the illegal drug methamphetamine.
Investigators said Watson, 44, who had no known ties to the prison-born Aryan Brotherhood gang, offered the chemical to Taylor as payment to have Chunn killed.
Watson’s attorney, Gary Mitchell, argued that Taylor lied about Watson being involved to extort the anhydrous ammonia from him.
Mitchell also said Watson cooperated with undercover agents posing as members of the Aryan Brotherhood in order to protect himself and his family.
He said local police and undercover agents unfairly intimidated Watson during the investigation and lied to advance their careers.
Mitchell also questioned the motives of some prosecution witnesses, noting they were paid informants or being threatened with heavy criminal sentences.
Deputy District Attorney Donna Mowrer, the prosecutor, said police didn’t invent Watson’s involvement or threaten him. She also said the state’s witnesses had no reason to lie.
Other than testimony that Chunn aggravated him, no motive was ever disclosed as to why Watson might have wanted his one-time friend killed.
Police said the arrangement with Taylor, a leader in the Aryan Brotherhood, was part of an attempt by members of the gang to begin a New Mexico chapter of the gang.
Watson eventually led undercover agents to the chemicals and shared information about the murder-for-hire plan, according to the indictment.
The case converged with a federal racketeering investigation started almost five years ago and culminated with indictments of 19 people connected to the Aryan Brotherhood.
The cases allege violations of federal law including violent crimes throughout the state — murder, kidnapping and drug and firearm offenses — in aid of racketeering.
In April, the 9th Judicial District Court found the charges against Watson warranted pursuit of the death penalty.