By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A tearful procession exited the Curry County Courthouse on Friday afternoon just minutes after a jury delivered a guilty verdict against Joel Cordova for second-degree murder.
After more than four hours of deliberations, the jury returned the verdict amid a crowded, yet subdued, courtroom.
Beginning Tuesday, the state argued Cordova committed first-degree murder July 26 when he stabbed Victor Estrada, 19, in the chest with a steak knife. Prosecutors say Cordova, 25, acted as the aggressor in killing Estrada at a residence in the 200 block of Pinon St.
However, in his testimony Thursday, Cordova claimed he was only defending himself.
The jury also found him guilty of tampering with evidence for trying to dispose of the murder weapon. Jurors immediately left the courthouse and could not be contacted for comment.
Estrada’s family said they wanted to see Cordova convicted of first-degree murder, but were pleased with the verdict.
“We didn’t get to say good-bye (to Victor) at the hospital” due to the homicide investigation, said Anita Estrada-Hermosillo, the victim’s sister.
She said her family had a tough year since her brother died, in part because his death was one of several tragedies suffered by their family. She said this verdict brings some closure to the family.
“We felt we hit rock bottom,” she said, “but it bonded us closer as a family.”
Some members of Cordova’s family were overcome by emotion leaving the courthouse, and others were tearfully resigned.
“I don’t think it was fair,” said Angela Cordova, mother of Joel Cordova. “I don’t feel justice was served, and I will continue to fight this.”
She and her family believe the fight that led to Estrada’s death was instigated by the victim and his brother.
She added that the entire situation is a tragedy that could have been avoided.
“I do feel for their family,” she said. “This should have never happened. My sympathy goes out to the Estrada family on their loss.”
Joel Cordova will remain in custody for the next 60 days while he undergoes a presentencing diagnostic evaluation. Following that diagnostic, he could face up to 18 years in prison, according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.
Estrada’s attorney could not be reached for comment.