Man pleads no contest in St. Pat's Day murder

Steve Garrison
Raul Avalos leaves the courtroom after his plea hearing on Thursday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec.

AZTEC — Raul Avalos pleaded no contest today to second-degree murder and other offenses in the shooting death of 20-year-old Demetrius Garrett at a St. Patrick's Day party in 2012.

Avalos, a 30-year-old local rapper, will serve a 20-year prison sentence as part of the plea agreement. He will receive credit for the more than four years he has served in jail awaiting trial.

Avalos was arrested March 18, 2012, on allegations he shot Garrett twice in the chest at the party, which was held at 603 Taos Ave. in San Juan County, according to court records.

Garrett was treated at San Juan Regional Medical Center after the shooting, but he died nine months later awaiting a heart transplant.

Chantara Garrett was sitting next to her brother when the shooting occurred, records state. She was shot in the left knee. Another man found a bullet lodged in his wallet, which he kept in his back pocket, records state.

At the hearing, Avalos also pleaded no contest to child abuse and four counts of battery of a peace officer. Two of the battery counts stemmed from a fight he had with jail guards in January.

Amanda King, a close family friend of Garrett, attending the plea hearing with her son, Elijah.

Judge Karen Townsend listens to a friend of Demetrius Garrett speak during the plea hearing for Raul Avalos on Thursday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec.

She said in a brief interview she cared for Garrett when he was released from the hospital. She told Judge Karen Townsend in a statement before the court she held him in her arms when he died.

"He was a child," she said. "Only 20 years old. Just a kid."

King told the judge Garrett suffered multiple heart attacks and night terrors while he was waiting for the heart transplant.

"After he shot him in the heart, he still held his head high, despite the pain," King said.

King asked God to have mercy on Avalos' soul, "because unfortunately I have no mercy for him."

Avalos offered condolences to the family.

However, he said he acted in self-defense and denied pointing the gun at Garrett, claiming instead the bullets ricocheted.

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