Judge rules evidence sufficient to arraign woman on murder charges

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — A magistrate court judge ruled the state presented enough evidence at a preliminary examination hearing Thursday to pursue murder charges against Shanah Chadwick-McNally in the death of 60-year-old Gerald Dunning.

Dunning's longtime friend found him bludgeoned to death in his Aztec residence on U.S. Highway 550 on the morning of Aug. 27.

Harold Larkins, an investigator with the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, testified Thursday that Dunning was found tied up in his bedroom and covered in blood.

"His face was pretty mangled, so he was hard to identify," he said.

Detective Andrew Gilbert told magistrate Judge Barry Sharer the room appeared ransacked.

Detectives learned from neighbors that a white passenger vehicle, similar to one being driven by Chadwick-McNally's boyfriend and co-defendant, David Carter, was parked near Dunning's residence the night of the murder, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Carter also used to live with Dunning at the residence, but was thrown out after an argument, the warrant states.

Detective Jon Nyce said Thursday he discovered during his investigation of the murder that Dunning's credit card, missing from his residence, was used at Walmart on the morning Dunning's body was found.

Nyce obtained surveillance footage from Walmart, which he said during his testimony showed Chadwick-McNally attempting to use Dunning's credit card.

Carter was located at a residence at 1209 Randolph Ave. and detained by police, the affidavit states.

While he was being placed in a squad car, Carter allegedly attempted to stuff a credit card belonging to Dunning under his car seat, according to the affidavit.

Carter, 29, admitted in a statement to detectives that he bludgeoned Dunning to death with a wrench and claimed Chadwick-McNally, 26, conspired with him in the murder, the affidavit states.

Also found at the Randolph Avenue residence was a white passenger vehicle matching the one seen by neighbors at the crime scene, the affidavit states.

Detective Tim Nyce testified Thursday that two trash bags containing bloody clothing were found in the trunk of the vehicle. Also found in the vehicle were a backpack full of tools and a 12-inch wrench covered in a "red substance, hair and even maybe fragments of skin," according to Tim Nyce.

Tim Nyce said Chadwick-McNally was later found by police in possession of a backpack.

In the backpack were two Walmart receipts and a black-and-white dress similar to the one Chadwick-McNally was seen wearing in the Walmart surveillance footage, according to Tim Nyce.

Joe Shattuck, Chadwick-McNally's attorney, argued in his closing statement the state failed to present adequate evidence to establish probable cause in the case.

"They haven't tied her to the murder," Shattuck said.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien disagreed and said the case would only become stronger once the state receives DNA test results from the state crime lab.

Shattuck said in an interview after the hearing that he still did not believe the state's case against Chadwick-McNally was strong enough.

"We will just prepare for the jury trial at district court," he said.

Chadwick-McNally is charged with first-degree murder, accessory to kidnapping, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and tampering with evidence.

An arraignment date in district court has not been set.

Carter is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and tampering with evidence.

He is expected to appear at a preliminary examination hearing on Sept. 17.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.