AZTEC — John Mayes' trial will take place in Gallup, a judge decided Thursday, after more than half of the potential jury pool said they believe Mayes is guilty of first-degree murder.
District Judge William Birdsall granted Mayes' attorneys' motion for a change of venue on Thursday. The motion was filed Wednesday after potential jurors in the trial returned a questionnaire about their thoughts on the case.
In the survey, more than half of about 175 people who responded said they had already decided Mayes was guilty of killing Dr. James Nordstrom on June 9, 2011.
Mayes, the 19-year-old son of Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Nordstrom, who was beaten to death with a pool cue in his home in Farmington's Foothills neighborhood.
Mayes' trial had been scheduled to start Aug. 20. A new trial date was not set on Thursday.
Prosecutors wanted to try the case in Aztec, San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said.
"I understand the court's got to do what's fair," he said. "I think fairness to the victim and his family is to have the trial in the community where this tragedy happened."
Stephen Taylor and Jeffrey Buckels, Mayes' attorneys, said the highly publicized nature of the case warranted a change of venue for the trial. They said that the trial also should be moved because many of the potential jurors surveyed said they had conversations with friends and family about the case or had a personal relationship with Mayes' family or Nordstrom.
"We weren't surprised by the results. We've been on this case for awhile and know about the awareness of the case and familiarity with the parties involved and their families," Buckels said. "Dr. Nordstrom was very well-known here, and everybody knows Rob Mayes. He's the city manager, and everybody knows he's John's father, and I think those factors explain a lot of it. It's just in the air here."
Prosecutors have said Mayes broke into Nordstrom's house, hid in bedroom and then beat him to death before stealing his credit cards and vehicle.
Mayes' attorneys said in court documents they will argue that Nordstrom provoked Mayes with unwanted sexual advances, and Mayes acted in self-defense.
Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.