Victim's mother testifies at murder trial

Steve Garrison
Cody Soto talks with his defense attorneys during a break on Wednesday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec during his trial on a charge of murder.

AZTEC — Tammy Robinson told a jury Wednesday that when she visited the site where detectives found her daughter's nude body — pale and stabbed 23 times— she said a prayer to God. 

Robinson said said she stuck her hands into the dirt at that spot in Head Canyon in San Juan County and pulled out a dirt-encrusted rosary and her daughter's hair tie.

"It was things she always had with her," Tammy Robinson told the jury.

The hair tie and rosary were logged into evidence at the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, according to an arrest report, and stored alongside a broken sex toy, condoms, beer bottles and red plastic cups that crime scene investigators found near the body of 29-year-old Brandy Robinson on June 22, 2013.

Brandy Robinson had been found by a passerby that morning, face down near a dirt road off the Bisti Highway, according to law enforcement officers who testified Wednesday. 

Prosecutor David Cowen said in his opening statement to the jury he would not be able to explain how Brandy Robinson's body got to that final resting spot in Head Canyon, nor the exact time she was killed, but "what you will hear is an opportunity, a motive and a confession, and through those three, you will have the killer — Cody Soto."

Christian Hatfield, an attorney defending Cody Soto who is charged with murder, questions a witness on Wednesday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec.

Wednesday was the first day of trial for Soto, 26, who is accused of first-degree murder on allegations he fatally stabbed Brandy Robinson, his former girlfriend.

Naomi Roberts, a crime scene investigator for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, told jurors a trail of disturbed dirt and blood led to Brandy Robinson's body.

Alongside the trail, Roberts found the victim's broken black-framed glasses, which were speckled with blood. She also found the sex toy, two condoms, a beer bottle, red plastic cups, a key and a black sock.

Attorneys Liane Kerr and Christian Hatfield are defending Soto at trial.

Kerr said in her opening statement that Robinson spent time with a revolving cast of nefarious characters, including Michael "Sparky" Graham and David "DC" Carter, who associated with Robinson in the days leading up to her death.

"A lot of these witnesses — in and out of jail, using drugs, having sex frequently," Kerr said. "That is just the crowd."

Brandy Robinson was also suspected of providing information to police that resulted in a drug bust at a friend's house, according to Kerr.

"Whatever anybody knew, they thought and they knew, Brandy was a snitch," Kerr said.

Cody Soto on Wednesday reenters the courtroom, where he was being tried on a charge of murder, after a break at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec.

Hatfield pointed out during the cross-examination of Roberts that Robinson was repeatedly stabbed, but very little blood was found on her skin, suggesting someone had cleaned her body.

Kerr said during opening statements that Soto's DNA was not found on Robinson's body.

Steven Vance testified Wednesday that Soto spent the nights just before Robinson's death at the Bloomfield residence he shared with his wife and their children.

Vance, 32, said Soto and Robinson stayed at his residence together for about a month before Soto was arrested on charges of domestic battery and false imprisonment.

Soto allegedly body-slammed Robinson on June 13, 2013, outside a residence on County Road 5060 in San Juan County near Bloomfield, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. He then held her down and refused to allow her to leave, the affidavit states.

Soto was jailed for a week, but released on June 20, 2013, after Robinson failed to appear at a hearing to testify against him, according to the affidavit.

Vance said Robinson moved out of the residence after Soto was arrested, but Soto stayed there after his release from jail.

Vance testified he and his wife smoked methamphetamine with Soto on the day of his release and the two following days. He said Soto was at the residence on the night of June 20, 2013, and June 21, 2013, the day before Robinson's body was found.

He further testified that Soto, who did not have a vehicle, could not have taken his car because he kept the keys in his pants pocket.

Vance admitted, however, that he was a heavy sleeper and his memory of the events was hampered by drug use.

Soto's trial is scheduled to continue today.

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