Man charged with first-degree murder in fatal stabbing southwest of Bloomfield

Steve Garrison
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Steve Barela was charged Friday with first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his wife, Evelyn Barela, on Thursday evening at the couple's home on County Road 5413 southwest of Bloomfield.

Steve Barela, 56, told police he and his wife fought over the heat in their house Thursday evening before the stabbing, according to the arrest warrant.

"I know what I did was not right," he told police in the complaint. "Nobody has the right to do that."

Steve Barela is being held at San Juan County Adult Detention Center on a $500,000 cash-only bond, according to a press release from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

The San Juan Communications Authority first received a 911 call shortly before 10:30 p.m. Thursday from a phone later identified as belonging to Steve Barela. A man told dispatcher he killed his wife and hung up the phone, the warrant states.

Deputies from the Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the Barela home, No. 34 County Road 5413, and found Evelyn Barela dead from multiple stab wounds.

A clerk from the Hilltop Giant gas station on U.S. Highway 550 called dispatch about 25 minutes after the stabbing and reported a man with blood on his hands and shoes had just entered the store and confessed to killing his wife, the warrant states. The clerk said the man fled north on U.S. Highway 550 in a white pick-up truck.

Police located the vehicle and eventually stopped it at a gas compressor station after a short chase, according to the warrant. Steve Barela was identified as the driver and placed under arrest.

He admitted several times to killing his wife and told deputies the knife used in the stabbing was in the bed of his truck, according to the warrant. A 10-inch fixed blade knife was located in the back of the truck, the warrant states.

Barela told police that earlier in the evening he became upset after finding a lock box on the thermostat at his home.

He ripped the box off the wall, and he and his wife argued about it when she arrived home from work at 10 p.m. Evelyn Barela threatened to call police, the warrant states, and Steve Barela chased her out of the house and stabbed her multiple times outside the residence.

Detectives determined Evelyn Barela had been stabbed about 10 times. An eagle head medallion was found laying next to the body, according to the warrant. Detectives believe it fell off the knife during the stabbing.

According to court records, Evelyn Barela had filed for divorce in May after 34 years of marriage.

A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, described Evelyn Barela as a quiet woman who often worked outside in the yard with her grandchildren playing nearby.

On Friday morning, the outside of the house was decorated with hand-drawn Christmas and Halloween decorations. Children's toys could be seen in the front yard. A wooden fence, which is missing several panels, separates the yard from the street.

The neighbor described the subdivision, which is known as Green Acres, as a peaceful area where everyone knows everyone.

Deputies had previously been dispatched to the Barela residence in August 2012 regarding a domestic dispute.

According to a probable cause statement, Steve Barela had been drunk and arguing with his wife and 29-year-old daughter on the evening of Aug. 28, 2012.

He aggressively confronted his daughter, according to the statement, and his wife called police.

Barela was charged in Aztec Magistrate Court with attempted battery against a household member and possession of marijuana.

He pleaded no contest to the drug offense on Nov. 29, 2012, and the battery charge was dismissed in a plea agreement.

Reporter Hannah Grover contributed to this story.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.