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FARMINGTON — A district court judge reduced the cash-only bond of murder suspect Timothy Serrano from $750,000 to $75,000 during a hearing earlier this month.

Serrano was charged last year with an open count of murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Dalton Ford in September of 2015.

Ford was found stabbed to death on Sept. 14, 2015 in a motel room at the Rimrock Lodge, 2530 Bloomfield Highway, in Farmington, according to court documents.

Cosme Ripol, one of Serrano's attorneys, said they pursued the order because Serrano has been held at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center for more than a year on a $750,000 cash-only bond.

Serrano was in custody at the county jail as of Monday afternoon.

Ripol added the San Juan County District Attorney's Office is having difficulties contacting necessary witnesses to be interviewed for the case.

"I think what the judge did under the circumstance is reasonable and follows the law," Ripol said.

More:Police: Man's DNA found at motel murder scene

A state constitutional amendment voters approved in November along with case law has made it more difficult for district attorneys to argue for high-dollar bonds, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.

The amendment to the New Mexico Constitution allows judges to deny bail to dangerous defendants.

O'Brien said district attorneys now must prove with clear and convincing evidence that a suspect must be held without a bond to protect the public.

"A lot of people believed the constitutional amendment would make it more difficult for dangerous or violent people to get out of jail," O'Brien said. "It has had an opposite effect."

He said Judge John Dean Jr. set the bond based on the factors the prosecution presented, including his prior criminal history.

More:Man claims alibi in murder at Rimrock Lodge

Serrano was arrested on Aug. 28, 2015 for allegedly stealing a vehicle from a Farmington residence. He faces charges including firearm theft, resisting an officer and possession of a firearm by a felon.

He was released without bond on Sept. 9, 2015 after Farmington police failed to forward Serrano's criminal information to the district attorney's office to be used during a preliminary hearing.

Linda Ford-Maloy, Dalton Ford's ex-wife, said she was upset with the order and believed the judge shouldn't have reduced the bond amount.

She said she hopes Serrano is receiving counseling and gets the help he needs.

A June 6 hearing at 3:30 p.m. in district court is set for Judge Dean to hear a motion from Serrano's attorneys to compel interviews from witnesses Mark McGuffin and Iran Olguin or exclude their testimony.

The defense has struggled to set up interviews with the two men through the district attorney's office, according to the motion.

They told Farmington Police Department detectives that Serrano had admitted to them that he stabbed Ford, according to the Daily Times archives.

Ripol said he believes the district attorney's office is operating in good faith and is working hard to produce the witnesses. He said the defense team needs to interview the witnesses to prepare for Serrano's trial on the murder charge. That trial is set to start on July 17.

The district attorney's office has had difficulty locating the witnesses but is working hard to find them and make them available for an interview, O'Brien said.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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