WHO I AM-Part IV of IV
After graduating with honors from the University of Nebraska Law School in 1995, I moved to New Mexico, along with my husband and two small children. Although I had a lot of family and friends in Nebraska, my husband and I had always loved New Mexico. We had travelled and visited here often, even before we were married. In fact, the first camping trip we took our kids on was to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. After successfully passing the Bar, I landed my first job as an attorney with the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in February of 1996. There I met Ron Lopez, who would become not only my boss, but my mentor and lifelong friend. The 7th is the largest geographical judicial district in the Continental United States—comprised of the four counties of Catron, Sierra, Socorro, and Torrance.
I started out as an Assistant District Attorney in Truth or Consequences in the Sierra County satellite office. Within two years, I was promoted to Deputy DA in charge of that office and its employees. Working in a small rural DA Office like the Seventh provided the opportunity to handle a wide variety of cases in a relatively short period of time. I tried my first dead baby child abuse case less than two years out of law school. I still remember the baby’s name. Crystal’s parents were both charged for their negligence leading to her death while they were out on a meth binge. I distinctly remember feeling an epiphany while I was making my closing argument to the jury. I knew at that moment that this was what I was meant to do—fight for justice for the most vulnerable. I was also involved in some of the State’s highest profile cases while in the 7th. My first felony jury trial was as co-counsel on State v. Santillanes, involving a drunk driver who killed his entire family; his wife, four kids and niece. I was co-counsel for the Torreon Cabin murder cases, where two toddlers were left in a cabin in the middle of the winter in Torreon to starve to death after their mom and her boyfriend were murdered by rival gang members. I also assisted with the David Parker Ray serial rapist and murderer case, as well as the Eric Star Smith case, involving a man who decapitated his son in front of his other son in a meth induced rage. I was ultimately promoted to Chief Deputy District Attorney, a position I held for two years until Mr. Lopez lost the election in 2000.
In 2001 we moved to Rio Rancho, and I accepted a position as Deputy District Attorney in the First Judicial District under District Attorney Henry Valdez (who is now the director of the Administrative Office of the District Attorneys.) I was ultimately placed in charge of prosecuting Crimes against Children and Sexual Assault cases. Initially, I was the sole prosecutor for all these types of cases for three counties—Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Rio Arriba. My caseload was constantly hovering near 300. It was far too much for one prosecutor. Realizing this, Mr. Valdez was able to obtain funding for another prosecutor and a full-time investigator to assist me. I spent the last five years of my tenure in the First DA’s office with a case load that consisted exclusively of Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, and Homicides. I became completely immersed in these cases and spent long hours at the office and at home working on them. Unfortunately, the stress of handling these cases while trying to balance my responsibilities as a wife and mother took a tremendous toll on me and my family (see my previous blog on Prosecutor Burnout). Knowing I needed a break from prosecution but still wanting to help crime victims, I accepted a position with the Victims Rights Project at the DWI Resource Center, a nonprofit organization in March of 2009, where I represented Crime Victims and assisted prosecutors to ensure the Victims’ constitutional and statutory rights were protected. After two years, I really started missing prosecution and when I was offered a position as an Assistant District Attorney in the 13th with Lemuel Martinez in February 2011, I knew I was ready to return to my true passion. I was promoted to Deputy District Attorney and supervisor of the Sandoval Office in 2014 and Chief Deputy District Attorney in 2019, overseeing three offices and approximately 80 employees.
During the last nine and a half years in the 13th, I have developed close working relationships with local law enforcement, judges, jail administrators, defense attorneys, CYFD, Probation & Parole, and other community leaders. These partnerships are crucial in the overall quest to keep our community safe.
I have been blessed in my career. I have been recognized with several awards for simply doing what I love. I have been appointed to and serve on two different Supreme Court Committees. I am frequently asked to speak and teach fellow prosecutors and law enforcement. One of the most enjoyable things I do is mentor new attorneys. Not only am I a Supreme Court appointed mentor for newly licensed attorneys, I have also served as adjunct faculty for UNM Law Schools Criminal Law in Practice Clinic. I feel compelled to pass along the lessons I have learned to a new generation of attorneys— to enable them to learn from my successes as well as my mistakes. I am proud to be a career prosecutor. I have passed up opportunities to go to the more lucrative and less stressful private practice sector. This is more than a job for me. It is a calling--a passion. I want to continue to do what I love in the position where I can have the most impact. That is why I am running to be the next District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District.