Date Posted: 12/19/2003 | Time Updated: 12:04:58 PM

FOUR YEARS LATER, MAN ARRESTED FOR WOMAN’S DEATH

Source: Chris Williamson / KRQE News 13

 

Four years after a young Socorro woman was run down and killed, police have arrested the man they have also known was behind the wheel.

 

The case of Stephanie Houston had been very cold until a News 13 investigation exposed serious flaws in the way police originally handled it. A new investigation by State Police now has the woman’s family feeling vindicated after nearly four long years intense frustration.

 

“A hard four years,” says Stephanie’s father Bill Houston. “So now, when this guy goes to prison, we can go to the cemetery and put my daughter to rest.”

 

Patrick Murillo was indicted Thursday afternoon on charges of vehicular homicide, in the February 2000 death of Stephanie Houston.

 

Houston was run down in Los Lunas, and Murillo was behind the wheel.  However, Murillo claimed it was an accident, and the initial State Police investigation seemed to agree with that claim.

 

News 13 conducted an extensive review of state police's handling of the case, and found investigators ignored evidence that it was no accident.  The initial investigators glossed over possible domestic violence and failed to follow fundamental investigative techniques, including never conducting an accident reconstruction.

 

It was after that story when State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado told News 13 this summer he would make sure the case would be re-investigated properly.

 

“Quite frankly, we can't afford to drop the ball,” said Maldonado over the summer. “We can't afford to do an inadequate job.  Are we perfect?  No, we're not. But we're going to do everything we can to be perfect.”

 

State Police initiated a renewed investigation, and it was that closer examination that led to Thursday's felony indictment.  Murillo was arrested late Thursday night at his home in Socorro. State police say he spent the night in jail, and faces arraignment Friday morning.

Patrick Murillo faces up to six years in prison if convicted of vehicular homicide.

 

“It’s unfortunate that justice was delayed in this case,” says State Police Lt. Pete Kassetas. “I feel that the family - it was owed to them to get it this far, where it was put in front of the jury.”

 

Private investigator Mike Corwin also fought for the case to be re-opened.

“Justice is served.  I think the state police deserve a lot of credit.  They went back in onto a case that they at first didn't really want to revisit and they did a good job,” says Corwin.

 

Stephanie's father says the indictment has restored his faith in the legal system.

“They told me that they were going to do the job, and do it right, which it hadn't been done before,” says Bill Houston.