Judge restricts calls between accused killer and her mother

  • In US
  • 2022-12-03 05:01:00Z
  • By The Santa Fe New Mexican

Dec. 3-A 19-year-old Santa Fe woman accused of killing an acquaintance with a sword in October will not be allowed to talk to her mother while being evaluated for competency to stand trial, a district judge has ruled.

District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer imposed that condition on Kiara McCulley for the duration of her competency evaluation at the state Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, N.M.

Deputy District Attorney Kent Wahlquist told the judge Friday the institute had been allowing McCulley to have phone conversations with her mother - Lani McCulley, a senior planner in the city of Santa Fe's Land Use Department - and requested the court keep that from happening again because McCulley's mother is a witness in the case.

"I'm the only family Kiara has, and she's just been cut off from all communication," a tearful Lani McCulley said in a brief phone interview following the hearing.

Kiara McCulley is accused of stabbing 21-year-old Grace Jennings to death with a sword Oct. 29 in a detached garage at her mother's south side home, where police say she lived with boyfriend Isaac Apodaca, who also is charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Apodaca, 25, is undergoing an evaluation to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

Jennings had previously dated Apodaca - and also knew Kiara McCulley - and had sent him a text message the night before the killing asking if she could sleep over, according to a criminal complaint filed in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court.

Authorities believe Apodaca and Kiara McCulley spent the evening plotting to kill Jennings while she slept alongside them in the same bed. According to the complaint, McCulley fatally stabbed Jennings with a 3-foot metal sword the next day.

Police responded to the scene in response to a call from Apodaca's mother, who said her son had called and told her McCulley had killed someone, according to a prosecution motion asking McCulley be held without bond until trial.

When officers arrived, they found Jennings' body covered in stab wounds and a sword with blood on the blade, according to the motion. Jennings also suffered injuries that indicated an attempt to decapitate her, according to police.

Apodaca told officers McCulley ordered him and Jennings to leave on Oct. 29, and he spent the morning packing before going inside the house to use the restroom at about noon, according to a criminal complaint.

No more than two minutes later, Apodaca told police, he returned to find Jennings dead. He said McCulley told him: "I did it."

Officers found text messages on Apodaca's phone that linked both suspects to Jennings' killing, according to a criminal complaint. Apodaca told police McCulley had been planning to kill Jennings since 2020.

One of his messages to McCulley states: "I am wanting you to kill her, you have to end your suffering by ending her joy," according to the complaint. Apodaca told police he meant what he wrote in the messages and stated he wanted McCulley to kill Jennings.

McCulley later told police she was upset Apodaca had invited Jennings over and remembered sleeping in the same bed with them but couldn't remember what happened the following morning, according to the complaint.

"McCulley believed this was due to her undiagnosed multiple personality disorder," the complaint says.

McCulley's attorney, Samuel Ruyle, and Deputy District Attorney Wahlquist filed a joint motion in early November, telling the court they agreed McCulley was at the time incompetent to stand trial and too dangerous to be released. They agreed she should be treated and evaluated at the Behavioral Health Institute.

A hearing to review McCulley's competency likely will be held in the next several months, Ruyle said Friday.


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