Trial begins Monday for man charged in 2018 slaying

Trial begins Monday for man charged in 2018 slaying

From the Las Vega Optic

On a cool October evening in 2018, along a stretch of road that winds through the venerable Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Rociada, New Mexico, Roman Latimer Lucero Sr. drew his last breath. Lucero, 46, was found in the middle of the road, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds.

Officers with New Mexico State Police arrived at the rural stretch of Highway 276 just after 8 p.m. that evening, Oct. 27, 2018, to find Lucero dead, his body lying next to the driver side of a truck parked on the roadway. Just up the road, a second truck parked along the road sat empty with two handguns on the hood near the windshield.

The officers’ attention soon shifted to the foothills when a man whistled at them. He began walking toward officers, unarmed, with his hands in the air, according to a probable cause statement filed in Magistrate Court in October 2018. That man was William R. Daniels, Lucero’s roommate.

A woman who witnessed the shooting, and knew both men, told police that Daniels and Lucero had gotten into a verbal argument that turned into a physical altercation. She said that’s when Daniels drew a handgun and shot Lucero.

Following one gunshot, she said Lucero fell to the ground, then Daniels fired three or four more rounds at Lucero’s head. When Lucero attempted to stand, she said Daniels shot him again.

Daniels, now 63, was arrested Oct. 27, 2018, and has been in some form of police custody since. He is charged with one count of second-degree murder.

Daniels was once a prominent figure within the San Miguel County Republican Party, often running the local campaign office on Bridge Street in Las Vegas where he hosted public events for candidates. Daniels even lived at the campaign office for several months in 2018.

In a November 2018 interview, Rey Herrera, chairman of the San Miguel County GOP, told the Optic that Daniels was asked to move out of the building because they’d received multiple complaints from business owners near the plaza about Daniels’ behavior.

“He was aggressive, as opposed to being assertive,” Herrera said in 2018. “He was (an) in your face sort of person and did not seem to have the ability to tone it down.”

After being asked to move out of the campaign office, Daniels moved to Rociada where he rented the main level of a bunkhouse on a ranch owned by Herrera.

In a November 2019 interview, Herrera told the Optic he’d rented the downstairs portion of the bunkhouse to Daniels in exchange for performing work on the ranch. Lucero, meanwhile, rented the upstairs part of the bunkhouse.

The witness to the shooting told police that she’d been talking to Daniels along the road when Lucero drove up and shouted at Daniels for blocking the driveway. It was that altercation that led to a physical fight, one that ended in Daniels shooting and killing Lucero, according to the probable cause statement.

Daniels was initially booked into the San Miguel County Detention Center. In November 2019, a judge granted a motion for pretrial detention. In the summer of 2019, Daniels was transferred to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute to undergo mental health treatment and evaluations after being found incompetent to stand trial.

Following months of treatment at NMBHI, in November 2019, Daniels was determined to be competent to stand trial.

Although he did not discuss the specifics of the case against Daniels, in an interview earlier this month, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Tom Clayton explained the competency process as having three prongs.

“The first one: Does he understand the facts of the case? Number two: Does he understand the roles of all the parties? Meaning the lawyers, the judge, the jury,” Clayton said. “The third prong — which is usually the most difficult — is can he adequately assist his counsel in a jury trial?”

Multiple previous dates had been scheduled for the trial to begin — with the most recent being scheduled for February 2021. All of the previous trial dates were rescheduled because of competency hearings, or because of public health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The trial is now scheduled for five days beginning Monday at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 3 of the San Miguel County Courthouse before Judge Flora Gallegos. Daniels is currently being held without bond at SMCDC.