UPDATE: On Friday, Aug. 25, 13th Judicial District Court Judge James Lawrence Sanchez filed an order for Gallegos to be held without bond. After a pre-trial detention hearing on Aug. 23, the judge determined “no reasonable means of release could ensure the safety of the community …”
BELEN — A Los Chavez man is facing an open count of murder after a man he allegedly stabbed in late July died from his injuries.
Andrew “Smiley” Gallegos, 47, was originally charged with aggravated battery after allegedly stabbing Belen resident Les Fertic, age unknown, in the arm and neck on Thursday, July 27.
Belen Police Chief James Harris said Fertic died in an Albuquerque hospital on Saturday, Aug. 12. He had been on life support at the University of New Mexico Hospital since he was transported there the day he was stabbed, Harris said.
The charges against Gallegos were amended on Tuesday, Aug. 15, after the Office of the Medical Investigator informed Belen police Detective Joe Rodriguez the manner of Fertic’s death was ruled a homicide. Gallegos is now charged with an open count of murder.
When officers arrived at a home in the 500 block of N. First Street in Belen on July 27, Fertic was sitting in a chair in the yard while emergency medical personnel with the Belen Fire Department applied pressure to the wound on his neck. According to the criminal complaint, there was a pool of blood in the dirt beneath the chair. Fertic told his son, who lived at the home, he fell and that’s how he became injured.
As he was being transported to the hospital, medical personnel informed BPD officers the injuries on Fertic resembled stab wounds.
Officers canvassed the area, looking for any blood between the son’s home on First Street and Fertic’s apartment on Second Street at La Hacienda Apartments. No blood was found and multiple witnesses at the First Street home denied knowing what happened to Fertic.
The following day, after viewing video surveillance footage from the apartment complex, officers saw Gallegos walking around the neighborhood, followed by Fertic walking to the First Street home from the back (east) side of the apartments.
“Moments later you can hear a loud ‘bang’ and you can see Les (Fertic) and Andrew Gallegos AKA ‘Smiley’ having a physical altercation,” the criminal complaint reads.
The complaint also reports people in the area during the altercation between the two men can be heard on the video shouting “stop it,” “help him” and “enough.” Fertic made his way to the First Street home, where he was found by EMS personnel and BPD officers. On the video, Gallegos is seen leaving the property on the south side.
The 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed a motion for pretrial detention on Aug. 18, arguing Gallegos should remain in custody until his case goes to trial due to his criminal history. Gallegos is in custody at the Valencia County Detention Center.
According to the motion, Gallegos has a criminal history dating back to 1995, when he was convicted of criminal sexual penetration and sentenced to nine years in prison. In the following years, Gallegos faced charges such as aggravated burglary, assault, attempted possession of a firearm by a felon and negligent use of a deadly weapon.
In late 2012, he and his brother, Joe Gallegos, were arrested and charged in the murder of Adrian Burns, who was handcuffed, shot twice in the head and set on fire in a remote area near Bernardo, in northern Socorro County.
The charges against both men were dismissed due to lack of probable cause but, in 2015, they were included in an indictment that charged dozens of alleged members of the Syndicato Nuevo Mexico prison gang.
According to Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Phaedra Haywood, in April of this year, Gallegos’ 2019 conviction and life sentence for the Burns murder was overturned by a federal appeals court. His and his brother’s prosecutions hinged on the killing being related to the gang under the federal Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering law, better known as VICAR.
While there is evidence Andrew “Smiley” Gallegos and his brother, Joe Gallegos, might have participated in the 2012 killing of Burns, judges for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in their April 17 opinion, there was no evidence the crime was related to the gang, Haywood reported.
A hearing on the DA’s motion and a preliminary hearing for Gallegos was set for 10 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 23, before 13th Judicial District Court Judge James Lawrence Sanchez.
The hearing took place after News-Bulletin press time and the outcome is unknown at the time of this writing.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.