Ribera teen convicted of second-degree murder in New Year's Eve shooting

·3 min read

May 2—A Guadalupe County jury has convicted a Ribera teen on a second-degree murder charge following the fatal shooting of another teen at a New Year's Eve party in 2021, court records show.

Both the shooter, Joaquin Sanchez, now 19, and the victim, Joshua Vigil, 17, were football players at West Las Vegas High School.

They lived less than a 100 yards from one another in the unincorporated community of Ribera in San Miguel County, about 45 miles southeast of Santa Fe.

The trial was held in Santa Rosa at the request of Sanchez's defense attorney, Alan Maestas.

Maestas cited pretrial publicity — and the fact Vigil's father, Tony Vigil, had purchased a billboard on Interstate 25 bearing his son's name and calling for justice for victims of gun violence — as reasons to move the trial to neighboring Guadalupe County to ensure a fair and impartial trial.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office also had a conflict in the case due to the fact that Tony Vigil worked as an investigator in the office.

Eight Judicial District Attorney Marcus Montoya of Taos and prosecutor Sherri Trevino, who is based in the district's Raton office, prosecuted the case.

"We are grateful the jurors were able to see the truth. We just want to continue to be his voice and share his story," Vigil's aunt Melissa Hernandez said on behalf of the family in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Nobody wins in this situation, but I'm hoping with the verdict we can move forward and try and heal and find some sort of peace," she added.

Jurors received the case Thursday afternoon after about three days of trial and delivered a verdict Friday afternoon, Montoya said Tuesday.

Initial reports indicated the shooting may have been accidental.

Sanchez told police he was hosting a New Year's Eve gathering with friends and drank approximately two beers and three shots of Crown Royal liquor before the shooting, according to a New Mexico State Police arrest warrant affidavit.

"At some point during the gathering, he began getting agitated and angry due to his guests throwing trash in the floor," the affidavit said. "He said he went to his parents' room and grabbed a hunting rifle. He said he pulled back the rifle's bolt four times and believed it was unloaded. Joaquin Sanchez headed into the kitchen and pointed the rifle at Joshua Vigil. Joaquin Sanchez pulled the trigger and shot Joshua Vigil in the head."

Montoya said prosecutors felt evidence brought other facts to light.

"Not only was the rifle not empty, as [Sanchez] had indicated, it had a round in the chamber and two more in the magazine," he said. "Not only was it not empty, but there were three more rounds ready to go."

There was no evidence of a fight or bad blood between the boys, Montoya said, but Sanchez had intentionally gone to the bedroom, grabbed the rifle, taken it back into the kitchen and fired it intentionally.

Multiple teenagers who had witnessed the shooting testified during the trial, Montoya said.

"A lot of the high schoolers [testified] they were concerned a rifle was getting pulled out," he said. "They were almost more in shock and awe and disbelief than anything else."

Among the teen witnesses, Hernandez said, was Vigil's twin brother, Antonio Vigil.

"My heart hurts for all of the kids who were at the party, and I think they were so brave for being able to relive it in such a public way," Hernandez said. "My nephew included.

"One thing I remember most is when he was asked: 'Do you remember what happened on Dec. 31?' and to hear my nephew say 'That's the night my twin brother was murdered,' was hard to hear," Hernandez added.

Sanchez's attorney did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The New Mexican's attempts to reach Sanchez's mother were unsuccessful.