ST. JOHNS — Gabriel Jaramillo was found guilty of four counts including first degree murder by an Apache County jury on May 29.
Jaramillo was charged with the murder of Steven Long and eight other felony charges by way of a criminal complaint filed by the Apache County Attorney on September 13, 2018.
The crime occurred in August, 2012. The two men apparently had known each other. Jaramillo shot Long while the victim was asleep in his bed. Jaramillo then cleaned up the scene, disposed of blood-stained bedding, bound the victim’s hands and feet with electrical cord and duct tape and finally, dumped the body in a heavily forested area near Big Lake which was discovered a few days later by mushroom hunters.
Early in their investigation, authorities turned to Jaramillo as the prime suspect.
He fled to Gila County and engaged police in a shoot-out and a high-speed chase and was subsequently charged and tried for those actions. In that case, a jury found him not guilty of two counts of attempted murder — Jaramillo had allegedly fired at two deputies during the chase. But he was found guilty of the charges of aggravated assault and fleeing police; Jaramillo was sentenced to five years in prison. After that sentence was completed, he was charged in Apache County for the murder of Steven Long, and eight other felonies.
By May 7, 2019, the time his jury trial started, there were only four of the original nine Apache County counts remaining; five had been dismissed along the way. One dismissed charge was for a type of murder called felony murder in which a person dies during the commission of certain felonies, like burglary. But the judge found that the burglary happened after the murder and threw that charge out. The court also threw out an armed robbery charge as lacking probable cause.
The prosecutor in turn asked the court to dismiss another three charges, two counts of illegally possessing firearms (Jaramillo is a convicted felon and cannot legally possess firearms) and a charge of stealing Long’s truck. It appears that the state did not have enough evidence to prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when there doesn’t appear to be any surviving eye-witnesses to testify about them.
Jaramillo was convicted of all four remaining charges: first degree murder, burglary, concealing a dead body and tampering with evidence; that is, cleaning up the crime scene and getting rid of the bedding.
A review of the court file suggests a motive. Jaramillo has an extensive criminal record beginning in 1974 including burglaries, kidnapping and a DUI. He apparently blamed Long for one of his felony convictions for which Jaramillo went to prison.
A witness claims that Jaramillo mentioned Long to him, and threatened him as well: “Oh, that’s the hole that put me away for twelve years in prison.” And that “He (the victim) disappeared.” Further that “And if you (the witness) say anything, I guess you could disappear, too.”
It is not clear when Jaramillo made those statements, but the prosecutor gave notice that he intended to use at trial a recording of Jaramillo’s phone calls while in jail.
As typical in criminal cases, both sides asked the court to allow or disallow various evidence. The defense moved to not admit “gruesome” autopsy photos arguing that they would inflame the jury. The state responded that the photos are evidence showing the bound feet of the victim, and that photos of the inside of the victim’s skull are indicative of the “state of sleep of the victim at the time of the murder.”
The four new convictions carry penalties of decades in prison that at Jaramillo’s age, 64, really means a life sentence.
Sentencing is set for July.
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