Farmington man charged in Flora Vista murder

Rick Stallings, 50, is being held without bond at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center

Steve Garrison
  • Karen Cugnini, 69, was found shot to death at her home in Flora Vista.
  • Rick Stallings, 50, has been charged with first-degree murder, burglary and larceny.
  • Two other people were also arrested over the weekend at a home in Farmington.
Rick Stallings

AZTEC — A 50-year-old Farmington man was accused Tuesday of shooting a woman to death last week at her Flora Vista home.

Rick Stallings was charged in Aztec Magistrate Court with first-degree murder, armed burglary and felony larceny, among other offenses, in the slaying of Karen Cugnini, 69.

Stallings and two associates — Michelle "Missy" Every and Lewis "David" Gutierrez — were arrested Saturday at Gutierrez's residence at 408 Ouray Ave. in Farmington. Detectives with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office found numerous items belonging to Cugnini inside the home, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Every, 44, was arrested on outstanding warrants. Gutierrez, 51, was charged with harboring a felon and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Sheriff's Office Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln said several more individuals affiliated with Stallings will likely face charges in connection to the incident.

"This is one of those (cases) where there are so many twists and turns," Lincoln said.

An attorney for Stallings, Sarah Weaver, said Tuesday that she had no comment.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, a family friend found Cugnini dead at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday at her home at No. 236 County Road 3050.

The family friend was searching the residence at the behest of Cugnini's daughter, who told police she had attempted to reach her mother by telephone that morning, but it went straight to voicemail, the affidavit states.

Detectives inspected Cugnini's body and discovered she had a gunshot wound to the back of her head, according to the affidavit.

Michelle Every

A .22-caliber shell casing was located on the floor of the bedroom, and several items were missing from the home. Cugnini's white Ford pickup truck was also missing from the residence.

Stallings was identified as a suspect after Cugnini's truck was found parked behind a house on County Road 6480 in Kirtland, the affidavit states.

A resident told detectives Stallings parked the truck there on Thursday night and claimed it belonged to his brother.

On Friday, detectives learned that several credit cards stolen from Cugnini's residence were used to purchase items in Farmington, according to the affidavit.

Detectives seized surveillance footage from the Walgreens at 701 E. 20th St. in Farmington, which showed two unidentified men and a woman, later identified by detectives as Every, exiting the store after using Cugnini's credit card, according to the affidavit.

Stallings' girlfriend was also located by police on Friday, the affidavit states. She told detectives Stallings threatened her with a handgun on Thursday night at Gutierrez's residence. She said Stallings was upset because he believed she was trying to set him up for arrest, the affidavit states.

Farmington and San Juan County SWAT teams executed a search warrant at Gutierrez's residence on Saturday night and arrested Stallings, Gutierrez and Every. Inside the home, detectives found several items of jewelry allegedly stolen from Cugnini's residence, as well as the woman's wallet and purse.

Lewis Gutierrez

The affidavit states that Every admitted in an interview with detectives that she used Cugnini's credit cards and forged her checks. She said Stallings told her he killed a woman, but she did not believe him, according to the affidavit.

Gutierrez said Stallings showed up at his house earlier in the week week and claimed he was burglarizing a house when the owner came home.

"I had to take her out," Stallings allegedly told Gutierrez, according to the affidavit.

Stallings declined to provide a statement to detectives and had methamphetamine in his possession when he was arrested, according to the affidavit.

Lincoln said Stallings is being held at San Juan County Adult Detention Center without bond.

According to court records, Stallings was accused last week in Aztec Magistrate Court of stealing a trailer from outside a residence on Western Circle in Aztec on Sept. 17.

In October 2005, he was charged in San Juan County with aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, larceny and possession of a firearm by a felon. He pleaded guilty to the larceny offense in February 2012 in a plea agreement with prosecutors, records state.

According to the sheriff's office, Stallings has been arrested by local and county law enforcement officers more than two dozen times since 1998.

Sheriff Ken Christesen said in a statement Stallings has become more violent over time and his criminal behavior is "fueled" by methamphetamine.

"Our suspect is a perfect example of the failure of our justice system, which allows a dangerous repeat offender to continually roam our streets until an innocent victim is killed," Christesen said.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.

The Flora Vista home of Karen Cugnini, who police say was found shot to death at her home last week, is pictured on Monday. Police have arrested three people in connection to the death.