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Witnesses testify murder suspect told them he shot woman

Rick Stallings is accused of shooting Karen Cugnini in the back of the head in October 2015

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Defendant Rick Stallings stands as the jury enters the courtroom Thursday during his murder trial at Aztec District Court.
  • It was the fourth day of the trial scheduled for five days in Aztec District Court.
  • Witnesses testified that Stallings was looking for money in order to leave Farmington.
  • Stallings is facing seven charges including larceny and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.
  • Three witnesses stated they saw Stallings with a revolver taken from the victim's home.

AZTEC — Three witnesses told jurors in the Rick Stallings murder trial today that the defendant told them he shot a woman while inside her Flora Vista home.

Stallings, 52, faces seven charges, including first-degree murder, in the slaying of Karen Cugnini, 69, according to court documents. She was found by family friend Clay Cockerell on Oct. 1, 2015, in her bedroom with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.

Stallings also faces felony counts of aggravated burglary, larceny and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.

Today was the fourth day of the trial scheduled for five days in Aztec District Court.

Michelle "Missy" Every and Lewis "David" Gutierrez testified that Stallings told them he had to kill a woman. The conversations took place when Stallings showed up at Gutierrez's residence following the alleged murder.

Gutierrez and Every both said Stallings told them in separate conversations that he felt nothing when he allegedly killed Cugnini.

Gutierrez, Stallings and Every were arrested at Gutierrez’s residence in Farmington on Oct. 3, 2015.

While being questioned by deputy district attorney Michael Sanchez of the San Juan County District Attorney's Office, Gutierrez told the court Stallings had a .38-caliber revolver when he visited Gutierrez's home.

District Chief Judge Karen Townsend listens to Deputy District Attorney Michael Sanchez speak Thursday during a murder trial for Rick Stallings at Aztec District Court.

Every also said she saw a short silver pistol.

A .38-caliber revolver was one of the items taken from Cugnini's residence, as well as Native American jewelry and rugs, according to court documents.

Witness Randy Hyde also testified this afternoon. He stated Stallings visited him in Farmington after the alleged murder, and said Stallings was asking for cash and was wanting to leave town.

According to Hyde, Stallings told him he entered a residence to make a sandwich and later shot a woman in the head.

Hyde said he then told Stallings to go away and that he didn't want anything to do with him. Hyde also stated Stallings had a revolver with him.

This morning, Every was questioned by prosecutor Trevor Maveal about her use of Cugnini's credit cards and checks. Every told the jury she used Cugnini’s credit cards and checks to get cash to help Stallings leave town.

Defendant Rick Stallings speaks to District Chief Judge Karen Townsend Thursday during his murder trial at Aztec District Court.

Every also said she purchased a necklace and ring from Stallings when he brought some jewelry into Gutierrez's residence.

While being cross-examined by Stallings — who is representing himself in the case, with Albuquerque-based attorney Liane Kerr serving as his standby counsel — Every said she had given money to him from using Cugnini's stolen checks.

Also today, Detective Michael Farni of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office testified about executing a search warrant at Gutierrez’s residence. Members of the jury were shown photos of the interior of the house.

The photos included one that showed a wallet found with Cugnini’s driver's license in the house.

Another photo showed some of the jewelry belonging to Cugnini found in a gray bag located inside a wall in the residence.

Multiple photos showed a black-and-white polka dot purse found in the home. Every told the jury it was her purse and wallet that had been found with Cugnini's credit cards inside.

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.