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Candelario bound over on first degree murder

WALSENBURG — After hearing over seven and a half hours of testimony from seven witnesses, Chief 3rd Judicial District Judge Claude Appel last Friday bound over Walsenburg businessman Ralph Candelario on first degree murder charges stemming from the death of his wife, Pamela, in January 2014. An arraignment return date of Tuesday, February 17 was set, and Judge Appel set a $1,000,000 cash or surety bond for the defendant. Special prosecutors Matthew Durkin and Ryan Brackley called six witnesses to the stand, ranging from a paramedic, to state bureau of investigation forensic experts, during the day-long preliminary hearing January 30. The defense team of Dariel Weaver and Patrick McCarville called only one witness, Walsenburg Police Captain Vince Suarez. Third Judicial District Attorney Frank Ruybalid sat in the courtroom’s gallery as a spectator. Prosecution witnesses included Huerfano Ambulance Service Paramedic Bradley Mullins, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agents Greg Sadar, Pat Crouch, Jodi Wright, Kevin Torres, and former Huerfano County Coroner Della Duran. It was Torres, the prosecution’s last witness of the day, who led the court through the Candelario home on W. Third Street, providing a narrative of the forensic photographs he made at the crime

scene on January 16, and 17. Pamela Candelario was found beaten to death on her kitchen floor just after 7 am on January 16. It was a neighbor who responded to calls for help by an injured Ralph Candelario, who was found lying on the sidewalk in the front of the home. The neighbor called 911 and said two people at the home may have been shot. The recording of that phone call was played into the record during the hearing. Torres testified about the search for physical and forensic evidence at the scene and described the photographs he made, room by room, of the two story home at 302 W. Third Street. He testified about the condition of the home, saying numerous curio cases and their contents were found mainly undisturbed, countering a claim by the defense the killing was done during a burglary by someone who was trying to obtain money to pay off a Mexican Mafia debt. Torres said forensic testing found DNA under a single fingernail of the victim, that was possibly from the defendant, or a male Candelario relative. The DNA test used could not narrow down the sample to one specific person. He testified that two rugs were found in the washing machine at the home, and later removed and hung up to dry inside the home by CBI Agent Wright. One small drop of blood from the victim was found on one of the rugs. Torres testified that a suitcase containing women’s clothing, believed to be that of the victim, was found packed and sitting outside the bedroom on the home’s second floor. In earlier interviews the defendant said he and his wife had planned a six-week trip to a home they owned in Oregon. There was no evidence presented that any travel bags belonging to the defendant were found packed in preparation of a prolonged vacation. Duran, Huerfano County Coroner for 16-years, testified the victim died of extreme blunt force trauma of the head. She said a life-size photograph of a fireplace poker was placed near the victim’s head injury during autopsy and that item is believed to be the murder weapon. Sadar and Crouch, two of the state investigators who interviewed the defendant testified to his demeanor and his statements made both at Parkview Hospital in Pueblo, where he was flown the morning the crime was discovered, and later in the CBI office in Pueblo. Testimony showed the defendant said he was attacked by two men in his home during the early morning hours of Jan. 16. Testimony indicated the defendant’s injuries were not as serious as initially believed. The Parkview ER physician, Dr. Wilson, did not indicate serious bodily injury to the defendant on the form provided by investigators the day of his examination. Neither agent testified the defendant told them the killers had spent up to two days in the home, as his manifesto published in the Huerfano World Journal on January 30 and February 6th, 2014 did. Weaver handled all of the cross examination of witnesses presented by the prosecution, and led the direct testimony of her sole witness, WPD Captain Vince Suarez. Suarez was the case supervisor of then-Detectic Lt. Kurt Liebchen, and then inherited the case when Liebchen retired from the police department. Suarez testified to some of the information he obtained during the investigation, much of it coming from James Baca, who holds the defendant’s power-of-attorney, who told investigators of ‘problems’ the defendant had with a businessman ‘down the block’ from his antique store. Information obtained from a parole officer, who said a parolee might have information the killing was done during a botched burglary. Suarez had directed Liebchen to interview the parolee, but it was found the information was second hand and from an unknown source incarcerated within the state department of corrections. Weaver asked Suarez if he had interviewed any of the people whose name’s had come up during the investigation, names of people who had prior contacts with local law enforcement. Suarez said no one from the Walsenburg police had interviewed those named by the defense. In summation, special prosecutor Brackley said there was no evidence that anyone besides Ralph and Pam were in the house when the victim was killed. Weaver said probable cause contains a degree of certainity and this case was, from beginning to end, about Ralph’s statement. Forensics does not provide a smoking gun in this case, Weaver told the court, the DNA is not exclusive to the defendant she added. The court found the probable cause was there and said the defendant’s bond would be re-addressed in the February 17th hearing.

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