ALBUQUERQUE—This morning in federal court in Albuquerque, a United States Magistrate Judge found that there was probable cause to support a criminal complaint charging Dennis J. Lovato, 26, with murder. If convicted of the offense charged, Lovato, a member of the Pueblo of Kewa (formerly, the Pueblo of Santo Domingo), faces up to life imprisonment, a maximum $250,000 fine, and up to five years of supervised release. The Magistrate Judge ordered Lovato detained pending trial.
United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that Lovato is charged with murdering Joseph Melvin Lucero, a 61-year-old member of the Pueblo of Kewa, on Pueblo land on the night of April 15, 2011. Lovato was in tribal custody until April 19, 2011, when he was transferred to federal custody.
According to the criminal complaint, on the evening of April 15, 2011, Lovato and two friends drove to Mr. Lucero’s residence on the Pueblo of Kewa, where Lovato and Mr. Lucero resumed an ongoing argument. The complaint alleges that witnesses reported that Lovato got out of his vehicle and started punching and kicking Mr. Lucero. Later that evening, Mr. Lucero’s lifeless body was found outside his residence; an autopsy revealed that Mr. Lucero death was caused by multiple blunt force trauma.
The case was investigated by Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services, Northern Pueblos Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Santo Domingo Pueblo Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shana B. Long.