New Mexico man charged with murder says brother died of suicide

Dominic Arguello

TAOS — A Chamisal man charged with second-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the death of his younger brother, who suffered a gunshot wound to the chest last month while the pair were drinking in Peñasco, claims his sibling fired the fatal shot during a suicidal episode.

But family members and the deceased man’s girlfriend told police the suspect, 32-year-old Dominic Arguello, was the brother who previously had threatened violence and suicide and had brought the gun with him the night before the shooting.

Arguello will remain in jail without bond until his trial, a state district judge ruled after a detention hearing Friday in the case.

Arguello was indicted June 6. During his arraignment Thursday, he pleaded not guilty to killing his younger brother, Shane Arguello, 30, early on the morning of May 23, claiming his brother had shot himself.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed May 24 in Taos County Magistrate Court, Dominic Arguello initially declined to speak with New Mexico State Police about the incident, but later said his younger brother had become suicidal after a night of drinking that lasted into the next morning.

At one point, he said, Shane Arguello put a gun to his own head as they were standing outside the brother’s trailer in Peñasco. When he tried to knock the gun away, Dominic Arguello said, his brother shot himself in the chest.

But state police agents say the story doesn’t match up with evidence in the case.

Agent Alexander Bennett notes in the arrest warrant affidavit that the bullet entry and exit wounds on the younger man’s body — through the right breast and out the lower right back — would have been unlikely for a self-inflicted gunshot.

“The approximate angle of this entry and exit wound does not lend itself to the theory that Shane had been attempting to shoot himself and then had the gun knocked down from his head,” Bennett wrote.

According to the affidavit, Shane Arguello’s girlfriend, Amy Martinez, said she was sitting in her car outside the trailer when the shooting took place and didn’t witness the moment the shot was fired.

“I don’t know how it happened, but Shane had the gun,” she told police, later adding: “Dominic tried to tell me that Shane tried to shoot himself in the head, and that he actually kind of swung at his hand to make sure he missed. I don’t know how true that is.”

After the shooting, Dominic Arguello and Martinez drove Shane Arguello to Presbyterian Española Hospital, where he died as medical staff were preparing to fly him to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Police found the gun they believe was used in the shooting “partially hidden” in Martinez’s car, the affidavit says. Agents allege Dominic Arguello placed it there in an effort to hide evidence.

Martinez said Dominic Arguello had brought the gun to his brother’s home, but that Shane Arguello had taken it from him because his brother was distraught over a breakup.

“We don’t trust Dominic when he gets depressed,” Martinez said, according to the affidavit. “He gets a little crazy and he wants to kill himself, and that’s why Shane took it away from him.”

Bennett wrote that the brothers’ parents had given him similar statements, saying Dominic Arguello had threatened to kill them and his brother six months earlier in Albuquerque.

This story first appeared on the website of The Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.