By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
A Curry County district judge on Thursday denied a bond-change request for a Clovis man charged with first-degree murder in connection with a January shootout that left one man dead.
Eric Duran, 26, of Clovis, charged with driving a vehicle in which two passengers allegedly gunned down 27-year-old Carlos Murillo, was denied a reduction of his $120,000 cash-surety bond after family members of the alleged victim and a Curry County sheriff’s deputy testified before Judge Stephen Quinn.
Quinn added a caveat: If Duran posts bond he will be on house arrest at his home at 212 Cactus.
“My brother had two daughters — they have no father now,” Murillo’s sister Linda Ochoa said. “My mother has no son now. I have no brother now. It’s murder, whether he was driving or pulled the trigger.”
Santiago Calbert, 20, and Christopher Meier, 20, both accused of shooting Murillo and described by Duran’s attorney Dan Lindsey as more “culpable” than his client in the crime, each posted the $100,000 cash-surety bond and are no longer in jail.
All three suspects face first-degree murder charges.
A cash-surety bond allows a bonding agency to be involved in the bonding process. Bonding agents typically charge suspects 10 percent and put up the money needed for release. When an inmate appears in court, the bonding agent gets his or her money back from the state.
Lindsey said the victim was shooting back at his client’s vehicle — which like Murillo’s had bullet holes in it — as evidence that his client is innocent of first-degree murder.
District Attorney Brett Carter argued the defendant’s bond should be even higher, and presented Duran’s prior criminal record and the fact that he fled Clovis after the shooting as proof. Duran is also charged with intimidating a witness by sending a letter to Calbert and Meier that read: “Chris, you and Santi keep your mouth shut,” Carter said.
Deputy Sheriff James Austin arrested Duran in Omaha, Neb., where the defendant had fled, more than a month after the shooting.
Austin testified Duran attempted to escape from his handcuffs on the ride back to Clovis.
“In my professional opinion he was trying to escape,” Austin told the court.
In cross-examination, Lindsey — saying the handcuffs were too tight — denied Austin’s opinion that his client was attempting to escape. He also said Duran had fled to Nebraska for his own safety after hearing that members of a California gang were coming to town for retribution for Murillo’s slaying.
Those arguments proved futile in Lindsey’s attempt to have Duran’s bond changed to $60,000 cash surety and $60,000 property bond, which would have allowed Duran to use equity from his home to help post bail.
Duran is scheduled for trial to defend the murder charge on Feb. 28; Calbert will face trial on March 14; and Meier on Feb. 7.