Suspect in murder of ‘Skip’ to remain jailed until trial

Suspect in murder of ‘Skip’ to remain jailed until trial

From the Las Vegas Optic

The man charged in the stabbing death of 71-year-old William “Skip” Smith Jr. in the summer of 2019 will remain in jail until the case goes to trial, according to Fourth Judicial District Attorney Tom Clayton.

Seig Isaac Chavez, 41, was arraigned in District Court on Monday, clearing the way for a trial to begin Sept. 4. Chavez faces one count of first-degree murder and one count of felony tampering with evidence. He is currently in custody at the San Miguel County Detention Center.

Chavez was arrested in Albuquerque on Feb. 24, 2020, three days after the charges were filed against him. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office made the initial arrest, and according to Clayton, Chavez was armed with a firearm at the time of his arrest.

Following his arrest, Chavez was remanded to the custody of the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute. Initially found incompetent to stand trial, the court ordered treatment at NMBHI to attain competency. In November 2020, a doctor treating Chavez deemed him competent to stand trial, and prosecutors filed a motion to have Chavez held without bond.

Clayton told the Optic that Chavez is also being held by the U.S. Attorney’s office due to the possession of a firearm during his arrest. Although Clayton could not speak on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s office, he said he believed the federal hold was added because of mental health issues Chavez has faced in the past.

Citing a Department of Justice policy, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he could not confirm the existence of any investigation into Chavez, and that he could not comment on any ongoing investigations.

Court records do not show any federal cases against Chavez, though it is possible that a case could be sealed or that pending charges have not yet been filed. At the state level, where he’s charged with murder, Chavez has been held without bond since his initial arrest.

“The judge previously held him without bond, given the gravity of the charges, and that he was on the run for a period of time,” Clayton said.

That hold was ordered in December 2020 by Judge Flora Gallegos. While Chavez is allowed to petition the court for a review of his conditions of release, according to Clayton, if a bond were to be granted, federal authorities would then take Chavez into custody.

Chavez was initially charged in Smith’s death following a lengthy investigation by the Las Vegas Police Department. Smith’s body was found by a passerby in an alleyway between 5th Street and 6th Street on Aug. 16, 2019.

Forensic investigators located 24 stab wounds or cuts on Smith’s body, according to an autopsy report from the Office of the Medical Investigator, with several of those stab wounds puncturing vital organs.

Surveillance footage from several Las Vegas businesses showed Smith get into a truck driven by Chavez, according to affidavits filed in District Court. Investigators located Chavez’s truck days later and allege it appeared to have been sanded and spray painted black, according to affidavits.

Police searched Chavez’s truck, and later a home in Las Vegas and one in Tecolotito. During those searches, police located multiple knives, a shotgun, 113 shotgun shells, 11 bottles of black spray paint and packaging for sandpaper.

Police also located articles of clothing with blood on them. Subsequent tests by a forensic lab indicated the blood belonged to Smith, and that blood samples taken from the truck also matched Smith’s DNA, according to affidavits.

Smith was laid to rest in August of 2020 at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Las Vegas. A memorial bench in Smith’s honor was placed in Plaza Park last year.