Man reaches plea deal in Farmington homicide

Steve Garrison
Juanito Cordova

FARMINGTON — Juanito Cordova pleaded no contest this morning to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Seth Stallings in September 2014.

Cordova, 21, entered his plea in a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six years in prison as a result, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.

Cordova was charged May 1, 2015, with murder on allegations he fatally shot Stallings, 22, on Sept. 3, 2014, at a residence at 306 Sycamore St. in Farmington.

Cordova allegedly told a Farmington police detective in an interview on April 2, 2015, that he shot Stallings because he was tired of being "punked," according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

He told the detective he sold the .40-caliber pistol used in the shooting for drugs and discarded the clothing he was wearing at the time, the affidavit states.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested the day after the shooting and was initially charged with murder in Stallings' death. However, the charges against him were dismissed for lack of evidence.

Cordova previously accused another suspect, William "Scrappy" Wilson, in Stallings' murder.

Cordova told detectives during an interview on Oct. 9, 2014, he was drinking with Wilson and Stallings at the residence on 306 Sycamore St. on the day of the shooting. He said he was outside the residence when he heard a single gunshot, the affidavit states. He said Wilson then came out of the residence armed with a black handgun, according to the affidavit.

Cordova's attorney, Eric Morrow, said his client asked him to pass on a message: "Juanito is not a rat. And the police can twist his arm, and he won't break."

Morrow said he was happy with the plea bargain. Cordova faced 30 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

O'Brien said prosecutors offered the plea deal due to problems with evidence in the case. He said two witnesses claimed they heard Wilson admit to killing Stallings, and those witness statements would have been used as part of Cordova's defense.

"Those statements could create reasonable doubt in the Cordova case," O'Brien said. "While a voluntary manslaughter plea isn't the ideal plea for what we think he is guilty of, it's a reasonable resolution because of what we may face at trial."

O'Brien said the prior arrest of the 17-year-old boy also muddled the case.

"That fact alone, when someone is arrested in connection to a homicide and charges are dismissed, that complicates things," O'Brien said.

Morrow said Cordova would receive credit for time served in jail awaiting trial.

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