Seven charged with murder in beating of jail inmate

Seven charged with murder in beating of jail inmate

From the Las Vegas Optic

Seven men have been charged in the death of Eric L. Vigil, a 40-year-old inmate who was beaten to death on Nov. 1 while in custody at the San Miguel County Detention Center.

All seven men are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

The men charged are: Conrad J. Atencio, 25; Daniel J. Magallanes, 22; Nathan E. Pacheco, 25; Dathian L. Lucero, 24; Devin F. Morales, 21; Pierre A. Lovato, 44; and Joaquin W. Richardson, 19.

Atencio and Lovato each face an additional count of conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence.

The charges were filed Monday in San Miguel Magistrate Court, following a two-week investigation by the Las Vegas Police Department. After interviewing witnesses and viewing surveillance video, investigators determined all seven men had taken part in the death of Vigil inside cell 232 of Echo Pod at the detention center.

The jail’s staff was first alerted to a problem when Magallanes called the jail’s master control to say another inmate had slipped and fallen, according to multiple arrest affidavits filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court. Corrections officers arrived to find Vigil unresponsive on the floor of the cell.

The pod was placed on lockdown as corrections officers and medical personnel entered the cell. Vigil was located facedown on the floor of the cell and had “extensive injuries,” according to the affidavits. He also appeared to not be breathing.

Vigil was transported to Alta Vista Regional Hospital, where he later died.

Investigators located a large blood stain on the floor of cell 232, and found what was believed to be pieces of human flesh underneath the bunk beds and on the walls, according to the affidavits.

Surveillance video showed eight men and Vigil enter the cell — known as the “big man cell” — just before a fight began. One of the men identified by investigators has not been charged. The affidavits indicate the man was not seen fighting in the surveillance footage, and that he did not have any physical signs of being involved in the altercation.

Monday evening, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Tom Clayton told the Optic he could not comment on the case until he’d met with LVPD investigators, which he expected to do on Tuesday.

According to Clayton, all seven men were scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon for arraignment hearings.

Video Footage

The affidavits include a detailed description of what the jail’s cameras captured that day.

According to the affidavits, video recordings showed Atencio, Pacheco, Magallanes and Lucero “pacing back and forth” as Vigil sat on a table in the middle of the room. Meanwhile, Pacheco was going in and out of various cells, “staying a short period in each cell he entered.”

After SMCDC staff collected the food trays, Vigil walked over to Atencio and Magallanes and exchanged some words with them.

Atencio, Magallanes, Morales, Lucero, Pacheco, and Richardson surrounded Vigil, while Lovato and the man who is not facing charges stood at the top of the stairs, looking down, like they were “waiting for something to happen.”

Vigil walked up the stairs and entered cell 232. Vigil talked to Atencio, then approached Magallanes who “suddenly” hit Vigil in the face with his right hand.

Vigil fell to the ground as the other men rushed inside the cell. They dragged Vigil to the middle of the cell and “multiple individuals” punched and kicked him.

The fight lasted just 62 seconds before everyone, except Vigil, exited the cell. Minutes later, Magallanes contacted master control and said an inmate had fallen.

Vigil’s Past

Vigil, also known as “Eric Builder” and “Scare Bear,” had been charged in connection with the 2007 shooting deaths of two New Mexico Highlands University students, 25-year-old Stephanie Dimas and 24-year-old Damian Ortiz.

Dimas and Ortiz were found dead of gunshot wounds in their home a few days before Christmas in 2007. Prosecutors alleged Vigil was one of two shooters and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder, but when Vigil went on trial in September 2013, a jury unanimously found Vigil not guilty on all counts.

Months earlier, in August 2012, Michael “Baby Diablo” Vigal accepted a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to both murders. Vigal is serving a 30-year sentence at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

In June of 2020, Vigil was arrested again after being accused of pointing a gun at a man, as well as choking and beating him, inside a Las Vegas motel room.

Vigil had been in custody at SMCDC since June of this year after he was arrested following a months-long search for a 30-year-old woman he was suspected of taking hostage.

Vigil and the woman were located after a property owner near Sapello called police to say Vigil and the missing woman had come to her home seeking a place to stay. She allowed them to camp on her property, but said when Vigil showed a handgun to her 16-year-old child, she contacted police.

Vigil was arrested at the property June 7. During a search, they located a handgun that matched the description given by the property owner. Vigil was booked into SMCDC on outstanding arrest warrants, and was later charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Fight Aftermath

Results of an autopsy showed Vigil died of blunt force trauma to the face and head, which caused “massive bleeding” in Vigil’s brain, according to the affidavits.

Several of those charged in Vigil’s death told investigators that, the day of his death, Vigil had been “acting aggressive” toward others in the pod.

Inmates told investigators that Vigil was “a bully” who would try to start fights. One man said others in the pod considered Vigil to be a dangerous man.

Pacheco told investigators that he believed the only way anyone was going to come out of the cell alive was to have everyone jump Vigil, comparing the fight to the biblical story of David and Goliath, according to the affidavits. He refused to tell investigators which of the men involved threw punches or who delivered the fatal blow or blows.

The man who has not been charged told investigators that he was “grossed out” watching the fight, and that “there were teeth everywhere,” according to the affidavits. When police asked him for details about each inmate’s involvement in the beating, the man said, “Everyone was hitting him.”