DA's Office: Double vehicular homicide case should not have been dismissed, charges to be refiled

Defense attorney argues case should remain dismissed

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Assistant District Attorney Keith Mandelski on Nov. 9 dismissed a case against Bryce Vigil, 20, of Kirtland, who was accused of killing San Juan County resident Marcelino Marquez, 20, and Sweetwater, Arizona, resident Michael Tsosie, 52 while driving while intoxicated on the night of Dec. 13, 2019, on U.S. Highway 550 northeast of Aztec.
  • San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien told The Daily Times Mandelski did not have permission to dismiss the case.
  • Arlon Stoker,​​​​​​​ Vigil’s attorney, told The Daily Times he believes the case should have been dropped a long time ago.

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County District Attorney’s Office will refile charges in a double vehicular homicide case because a prosecutor who dismissed the case did not have permission to do so.

The defendant’s attorney believes the case should remain dismissed as the lawyer argues there is no evidence his client was driving while intoxicated in December 2019.

Assistant District Attorney Keith Mandelski on Nov. 9 dismissed a case against Bryce Vigil, 20, of Kirtland, who was facing two second-degree felony counts of homicide by vehicle along with petty misdemeanor counts of DWI and reckless driving, according to court documents.

Vigil was accused of killing San Juan County resident Marcelino Marquez, 20, and Sweetwater, Arizona, resident Michael Tsosie, 52 while driving while intoxicated on the night of Dec. 13, 2019, on U.S. Highway 550 northeast of Aztec.

The defendant was accused of a DWI crash when his Lincoln passenger car left the roadway and rolled, ejecting Tsosie and Marquez from the vehicle. The deceased were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

Mandelski in the dismissal wrote the prosecution needs to conduct additional investigation regarding how marijuana could impact a person’s ability to drive and if it was tied to reckless driving.

It also stated the prosecution is investigating the possibility of pursuing felony charges for homicide by vehicle (reckless driving).

A San Juan County Sheriff’s Office deputy told a New Mexico State Police officer he smelled the odor of cannabis and alcohol from the vehicle and Vigil smelled of alcohol.

Vigil refused a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer. A warrant was executed to get a sample of the defendant’s blood.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien told The Daily Times Mandelski did not have permission to dismiss the case, nor was it an appropriate solution to the problem he was trying to overcome.

O’Brien added the criminal complaint could had been amended instead of having to dismiss the entire case.

Arlon Stoker, Vigil’s attorney, told The Daily Times he believes the case should have been dropped a long time ago and refiling the case won’t make much of a difference, as he argued his client was not impaired.

“We've always said that it was not driving impaired. There was no evidence of driving impaired, he was not driving recklessly,” Stoker said. “There was no evidence to support the charges."

The attorney added Vigil swerved to miss a deer and lost control of the vehicle.

O’Brien said the DA’s office intends to refile the case by the end of this week.

It’s possible that the case will have to start the entire court process again, according to Stoker.

It may have to go back to magistrate court then return to district court as they proceed toward a jury trial.

When asked if dismissal and refiling of charges against Vigil violates his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment, Stoker said it will be a topic to discuss further down the road.

It has been nearly two years since the charges were first filed against Vigil.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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