Jurors watch interrogation at murder trial

Steve Garrison
Defendant Cody Soto talks with his defense lawyers during a break in his murder trial on Wednesday in Aztec. Jurors watched a video recording Friday of Soto's interview with San Juan County Sheriff's Office investigators.

AZTEC – Cody Soto sat down for an interview with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office on July 9, 2013 — less than a month after his 29-year-old ex-girlfriend, Brandy Robinson, had been found fatally stabbed near the Bisti Highway.

On Friday, prosecutors showed a video recording of part of that interview to the jurors who will determine whether Soto, 26, should be found guilty of first-degree murder in Robinson’s slaying.

Robinson's nude body was found near a service road off the Bisti Highway in San Juan County on June 22, 2013. A state medical investigator testified Thursday that Robinson sustained 23 knife wounds, including two fatal stab wounds to the breast and back.

Jurors watched more than half of the eight-hour interview, during which Soto talks with sheriff’s office detectives Candice Montoya and Cory Tanner about his relationship with Robinson, which began in November 2013.

He also discusses the rumors surrounding Robinson’s death and Robinson’s relationship with another suspect — Michael “Sparky” Graham.

After two hours, the interview turns into an interrogation. Montoya and Tanner imply that Soto’s DNA connects him to the crime scene (it does not) and ask for an explanation.

Soto tells Montoya he can prove his whereabouts in the days leading up to Robinson’s death.

“I was at home,” he insists in the recording. “With my family. I was at home.”

Soto's roommate and friend Steven Vance testified Wednesday that he, his wife and Soto were together at his residence in Bloomfield on June 20, 2013, and June 21, 2013. He said they smoked methamphetamine and marijuana and, as far as he was aware, Soto slept in his room on both nights.

Later during the interrogation, Soto tells Montoya and Tanner: “All I ever was trying to do was keep her safe from Sparky.”

Montoya implores Soto to "tell the truth." After several hours, a crying Soto tells the detective he did not remain at the Vances’ residence in Bloomfield during the night of June 20, 2013, but instead took a Red Apple Transit bus to south Farmington.

However, when Montoya suggests Soto stabbed Robinson, he denies it.

“I said I saw Sparky stab her,” Soto exclaims in the recording.

Jurors were dismissed Friday evening without having seen the entire interrogation. They will reconvene Tuesday morning.

Graham testified Thursday that he, Robinson and another man — David “D.C.” Carter — were together at a motel in Farmington during the early-morning hours on June 20, 2013.

Graham and Robinson then went together to Nolan Reeves’ residence in south Farmington at sunrise, and Graham remained there until 10 a.m., according to his testimony. Graham said Robinson left Reeves’ house before him, and that was the last time he saw her.

Reeves confirmed in testimony Thursday that Graham and Robinson came to his residence on June 20, 2013, but he said they arrived later in the morning. Reeves told the jury Friday morning a man he believed was Soto called him four times that day looking for Robinson.

“He was frantic,” Reeves said. “He really needed to get a hold of her.”

Reeves said Soto also stopped by his residence during the afternoon or evening of June 20, 2013.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Liane Kerr claimed Reeves had not told detectives or an investigator for the defense about Soto’s visit.

Reeves said during re-direct that he told an investigator with the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office about it. Reeves also confirmed during cross-examination that he saw Graham and Robinson fighting while they were at his residence on the morning of June 20, 2013.

“They did that often,” he said. “They spat about stuff.”

Reeves testified Friday he met with Robinson at approximately 11 p.m. on June 20, 2013, at the Miller Bridge. He said they spoke briefly, and Robinson seemed upset and frantic. Reeves said Robinson left the bridge on foot headed east on U.S. Highway 64. He said she was alone.

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