Portales man faces death penalty in murder for hire case

A state district judge will allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty against a Roosevelt County man accused in the 2005 shooting death of a rancher.

Judge Drew Tatum said there is probable cause to believe the case against 44-year-old Billy Joe Watson involved a murder for hire.

That's one of the aggravating circumstances for which the death penalty can be sought.

Watson is accused of hiring Donald Taylor to kill Jimmy Bo Chunn in exchange for material to be used for making methamphetamine.

The case is not affected by the state Legislature's recent repeal of New Mexico's death penalty because the new life-without-parole sentence applies to crimes committed as of July 1.