Trial of murder suspect Rick Stallings delayed

Man suspected of killing longtime Durangoan Karen Cugnini

Stallings Enlarge photo

Stallings

The trial for a Farmington man accused of killing longtime Durango resident Karen Cugnini nearly two years ago was again delayed, according to New Mexico prosecutors.

Rick Stallings, who at the time was 50 years old, was scheduled to start trial Monday on suspicion of killing Cugnini, 69, in her Flora Vista, N.M., home in October 2015.

The trial was delayed in August after Stallings allegedly threatened his public defense lawyer, said Dustin O’Brien, chief deputy for the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The judge allowed the public defender to withdraw representation.

It’s not the only time Stallings has become upset with his attorney. On Aug. 2, he appeared in court for another charge, possession of a deadly weapon, wherein he is accused of being caught with a shank he made out of a pair of glasses while in jail.

At that hearing, O’Brien said Stallings became irate with his public defender, calling him dishonest and threatening to “pop” him, among other sentiments not appropriate to print.

“He’s actually an attorney that does his job, and does it really well,” O’Brien said.

Stallings was assigned a new public defender, and, as a result, the court date for the homicide case was rescheduled for Nov. 27. The court date for possession of a deadly weapon is set for Oct. 12.

Stallings is accused of breaking into Cugnini’s home with the intent of stealing her property. Authorities believe Cugnini walked in on the burglary and was subsequently shot. Two days later, Stallings was located at a Farmington home and refused to come out. The situation escalated to a standoff that required a SWAT team to surround the residence.

Since his arrest, Stallings has continually incited delays on his trial.

In April 2016, Stallings dismissed his public defender, Thomas Clark, wishing to represent himself in court. A few months later, he reversed his decision and a court date was set for November of that year.

But in court that November, Stallings again changed his mind, and ordered a motion to represent himself. Yet at the same hearing, he also argued he wasn’t competent to stand trial.

The request forced District Court Judge Karen Townsend to postpone proceedings until a mental health evaluation could be conducted.

Stallings was found competent to stand trial, and a court date was set for Sept. 18. At that time, Stallings chose to retain Clark.

“Delay is never good for the state,” O’Brien said. “The more delay he causes, unfortunately, the more likelihood something could create a problem for the state. We intend to make every effort to prevent that.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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