By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
The family of Odis and Doris Newman is expected to be in Albuquerque from the opening arguments to the final verdict in the case of a man accused in their deaths.
It’s a necessary commitment to her parents, daughter Vickie Dixon of Portales said, as opening arguments are set to begin Wednesday in the trial of Stanley Bedford.
Bedford, 43, of Portales, is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping and other lesser charges in connection with the deaths of the Newmans. They lived in Portales all of their lives and were longtime owners of Valley Electric, which Vickie and Stanley Dixon now own.
“My parents had lived here all their lives, and their grandparents had lived here all their lives,” Vickie Dixon said. “When my son takes it over, it will be a fourth-generation business.”
That’s not lost on the citizens of Roosevelt County, part of the 9th Judicial District that District Attorney Matt Chandler serves.
“It’s a case that’s been fresh in the minds of many individuals in the community,” Chandler said, “especially the senior citizens who had daily contact with the Newmans.”
Defense lawyer Gary Mitchell said he understands how respected Odis and Doris Newman were in Roosevelt County as business owners and citizens, but hoped anger over their deaths wouldn’t be conflated into overlooking Bedford’s innocence.
The bodies of Odis Newman, 70, and his wife, Doris Newman, 69, were found March 3, 2005, in the trunk of a burned-out car.
According to court documents, the Newmans were alive when they were put in the trunk before the car was set on fire.
“This is a case people want to see somebody hanged for,” Mitchell said. “Stanley Bedford doesn’t have any status in the community. He’s not the head of some company that employs a lot of people. He’s not a local sports hero. He’s not a school teacher.”
Relatives of Bedford declined comment for this story, and Dixon had no comment regarding the trial itself or the death penalty.
Jury selection is still not complete in the case, which is scheduled for the next five weeks at District Court in Albuquerque. About 10 more panel members are needed for 60 people, which will be pared down to 12 jurors and up to four alternates.
Both Chandler and Mitchell expect to finish up jury selection Tuesday and begin opening arguments Wednesday.
Mitchell, who has worked more than 100 death penalty cases in 30 years of practicing law in New Mexico, said most cases have a conservative jury because people opposed to the death penalty — like Mitchell — get knocked out in the screening process more than people in favor of the death penalty.
From what he sees in panel questionnaires, this case is no exception.
“They’ll be a conservative jury,” Mitchell said, “but I hope they’re going to be able to look at the evidence with an open mind.”
Chandler has said throughout the process the evidence was convincing enough for a grand jury in Roosevelt County to indict Bedford, and he’s confident a jury in Albuquerque will think it’s enough evidence to convict Bedford.
Chandler will be assisted by Michael Cox, one of the state’s leading death-penalty prosecutors.
“He is extremely good,” Mitchell said of Cox. “He is extremely capable. We both work extremely hard. We’re both experienced, so there’s not too much that escapes either one of us.”