Witness testifies he gave murder suspect a rifle

A .22-caliber shell casing was found on the floor of victim's bedroom.

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Rick Stallings is representing himself as his own attorney.
  • The jury saw photos of Karen Cugnini's body and listened to a 911 phone call from a family friend who found her body.
  • It was the second day of a trial scheduled for five days.

AZTEC — A witness testified this afternoon that he gave Rick Stallings a .22-caliber rifle and saw Stallings driving a white pickup truck owned by the woman Stallings is accused of killing.

Stallings, 52, is charged with first-degree murder and accused of slaying Karen Cugnini in her Flora Vista home during an armed burglary, according to the criminal complaint.

Cugnini, 69, was found by Clay Cockerell after the victim's daughter, Chris Cugnini, asked Cockerell to check on her mother after she did not respond to phone calls or text messages on Oct. 1, 2015, Cockerell testified today.

She was found dead by Cockerell in a bedroom on Oct. 1, 2015 with a gunshot wound to the back of her head. A .22-caliber shell casing was found on the bedroom floor.

Stallings is accused of seven charges including felony counts of larceny, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and aggravated burglary, according to court documents.

It was the second day of a trial scheduled to run through Friday in Aztec District Court.
Lloyd Turnbull was being questioned by Trevor Maveal, a senior trial attorney for the San Juan County District Attorney's Office, when Turnball said he gave Stallings a .22-caliber "sawed-off" rifle.

He also testified to seeing Stallings drive a white pickup truck on Sept. 30, 2015, along County Road 3050. A white Ford truck owned by the victim was not at her home when Cockerell found the woman's body, Cockerell testified.

Stallings, acting as his own attorney, asked Turnbull why Turnbull gave him the .22-caliber rifle. Turnbull responded by stating Stallings liked it. 

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Stallings asked Turnbull if he was sure he saw him on Sept. 30, 2015, in a white pickup truck and Turnbull responded that he was certain he saw Stallings in the vehicle.

District Chief Judge Karen Townsend on Nov. 13 approved Stallings' motion to represent himself with Liane Kerr serving as his standby counsel.

Stallings spent parts of the trial this afternoon cross-examining the prosecution's witnesses, asking them questions about their use of narcotics and their interactions with them.

While cross-examining witnesses Barbara Walker and Sandy Lundy, Stallings asked both of them if they were “high,” adding they were under oath. Both replied they were not “high.”

Walker and Lundy testified about an incident where Stallings is accused of threatening Walker with a rifle. The alleged incident took place on property where Lundy and her husband Turnball reside.

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Walker testified that she was on the property for a yard sale and Stallings threatened to shoot her, prompting her to get into her vehicle and leave the property.

As she was starting to drive away, Walker testified she saw Stallings appear with a rifle.
During Stallings’ cross-examination of Lundy, Judge Townsend advised Stallings to ask the witnesses questions and not introduce his own testimony. 

In the morning, Cockerell was one of a handful of witnesses who testified.
He told the jury about how he arrived on scene and found the victim's body in a bedroom. Maveal played a copy of the 911 call Cockerell made after finding Karen Cugnini in her home.

Members of Karen Cugnini's family stepped outside the courtroom when the call was played and later when photos of her body in her bedroom were displayed for the jury.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.