FARMINGTON — A Bloomfield man who previously pleaded guilty to murder and then successfully withdrew that plea, pleaded guilty on Thursday to involuntary manslaughter in connection to a woman's death on the Navajo Nation in 2011.
Jasper Fernandez, 39, will be sentenced to time served for his role in the death of Vernita Jose, 36, at the intersection of County Roads 7010 and 7100. He has been in custody since his arrest on Feb. 22, 2012, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico.
Both Fernandez and Jose were intoxicated the night of her death. Fernandez said she started to hit him after he criticized her and he lost a tooth, according to the news release.
Fernandez said he pushed her head into a pillar in the car and she died on Nov. 4, 2011. Then he buried her and FBI agents found her remains Dec. 16, 2011. On November 29, 2012, Fernandez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for Jose's death. He was to be sentenced to eight to 10 years in prison as a condition of the plea.
Prior to his sentencing hearing Fernandez got a new attorney, who filed a motion to withdraw the plea.
Daniel Tallon, Fernandez's new attorney, said in a motion that Fernandez said he was innocent because he was acting in self defense. He said his prior attorney convinced him to take the plea.
"Mr. Fernandez had a strong disagreement with the contents of the statement of facts in the plea agreement," Tallon said. "Mr. Fernandez describes his interactions with prior counsel concerning the plea agreement as showing resistance, reluctance and uncertainty."
Prosecutors were against withdrawing the second-degree murder plea.
A federal judge ordered on Feb. 26 that the plea be withdrawn after a hearing earlier in the month.
Fernandez will remain in custody until his sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled.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.