Murder suspect accused of possession of weapon in jail

Mitch Lopez is facing a count of possession of a deadly weapon or explosive by a prisoner

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Lopez is accused of second-degree murder in the death of Benjamin Charley.
  • Charley's death was declared a homicide after medical investigator declared he died of blunt head trauma.
  • A five-day jury trial is scheduled to start on Sept. 27 in Aztec District Court.
Mitch Lopez

FARMINGTON — A Farmington man accused of slaying his cousin is also accused of being in possession of a makeshift weapon in his cell at the county jail.

Mitch Lopez, 22, is facing a count of possession of a deadly weapon or explosive by a prisoner, a second-degree felony, according to court records.

He was charged with second-degree murder on June 1, 2016, in Farmington Magistrate Court on accusations of beating up his cousin, 28-year-old Benjamin Charley, on the night of April 18, 2015, according to The Daily Times archives. Charley succumbed to his injuries three days later.

The new charge stems from a makeshift razor blade made from the shell of a AA battery found in Lopez's cell at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The makeshift weapon was found on Sept. 4 after jail officers smelled smoke coming from Lopez's cell.

During the search, the weapon was found on the inside part of the cell door and was held in place by magnets, according to court documents.

Lopez initially told an officer he didn't know anything about the makeshift weapon but later claimed it was to be used for tattoos.

A preliminary hearing on the new charge is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Thursday in Aztec Magistrate Court.

Lopez is also facing a conspiracy to commit bringing contraband into jail charge, a fourth-degree felony.

He is accused of having an unknown person ship Suboxone strips in the mail to him at the jail. They were confiscated, according to court documents. Suboxone is a drug used to treat opioid addiction.

Stephen Wayne, Lopez's public defender, filed a motion on Friday to dismiss the charge, according to court records.

Wayne argued that there is no evidence that Lopez was in possession of the contraband that was carried into the jail, according to the motion.

Lopez is scheduled for a five-day jury trial on the second-degree murder charge starting at 8 a.m. on Sept. 27 in Aztec District Court.

Charley's death was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner on June 9, 2015. The examiner reported that Charley died of blunt head trauma, according to court documents. Another contributing factor to Charley's death was acute alcohol intoxication.

The alleged fight took place at Lopez's apartment in the 2800 block of East 22nd Street while Lopez and Charley were intoxicated.

Charley was treated for several injuries at San Juan Regional Medical Center, including bruises to his head and body along with fractured bones in his face, according to court documents.

Lopez, along with three other fugitives wanted for murder, were arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on June 1, 2016, according to a department press release. He has been incarcerated at the county jail since his arrest. 

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