Area district attorney takes over Roswell school shooting case

Clovis, NM -  The district attorney for Curry and Roosevelt counties is taking over the Roswell school shooting case.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler was assigned the case by Fifth Judicial District Attorney Janetta Hicks, who was the original prosecutor.

Chandler said Hicks stepped down from the case because she has family members who attend Berrendo Middle School, where the shooting happened.

He spent Tuesday in Roswell interviewing police and key witnesses. "It was really good to see the students coming back and getting back into the education system and not so much worrying about their safety," said Chandler. "They're starting to put the pieces back together as well. And of course, I've had the opportunity to meet with the victims of this case and their families. They're all starting the healing process, and now we need to focus on the investigation and the proceedings."

The case is unique because the suspect who is charged with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon is 12 years old.

Right now, the suspect is undergoing a 60-day psychiatric and mental evaluation. Once the 60-day period is over, the suspect will return to Roswell for his first court hearing and a trial date will be set.

"The juvenile process moves very quickly compared to adult court," said Chandler. "So once he's returned from his evaluations, we expect things to start moving rather fast."

If the suspect is convicted, he can only be held in a secure facility for a limited number of years. "In New Mexico, the longest we can hold a child who has been charged with this particular conduct, is up to two years. And after two years, there is a reevaluation or reconsideration that's conducted between the courts and the Children Youth and Families Department. Then, they can hold that child up to the age of 21 if necessary," said Chandler.

If an adult had committed the crime, Chandler said they would be facing a life sentence depending on if the victims survive or not. He said the adult system in New Mexico is geared towards the punitive area and the juvenile system is geared towards rehabilitation and treatment. Though the systems differ, Chandler said he will approach the case just as any other.

"A case of this nature is difficult for all the parties involved," said Chandler. "But as a prosecutor, we have to look at the facts of the case, we have to look at the investigation, and do what's in the very best interest of justice for the community, for the victims, and for the accused. And that's our role as a prosecutor, so we'll do our very best to make sure this case is handled properly."

Madison Alewel - NewsChannel 10