Murder suspect appears in court

Bail hearing for Valerie Espinoza set for Oct. 9

Wearing a drab khaki inmate jumpsuit, murder suspect Valerie Espinoza showed little emotion Wednesday as charges against her were read in open court.

District Court Judge Todd Plewe informed Espinoza, 38, of Cortez that she faces a single count of first-degree murder. If convicted of the Class 1 felony, the minimum penalty is life in prison. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.

The charges stem from a Sept. 19 stabbing on the 200 block of S. Madison Street that resulted in the death of Charles Chaves, 62. According to court records the victim suffered seven stab wounds to his upper body during the early-morning attack.

Currently incarcerated without bond, Espinoza was granted a 1:30 p.m. bail hearing on Oct. 9.

“The defendant has a right to a bail hearing, but actually receiving bail is not a right,” Judge Plewe said.

Nearly a dozen of Espinoza’s friends and family members attended the courtroom proceedings the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 25. Throughout, a shackled Espinoza stood, staring straight ahead at the judge, glancing only momentarily toward the gallery a handful of times.

Before the proceedings, Espinoza met briefly with public defender Amy Smith, and upon returning to the courtroom with legal counsel, Espinoza broke down emotionally, sobbing briefly.

A member of the victim’s family reportedly listened to proceedings via telephone.

According to court records, a roommate discovered the victim lying on his bed “gasping for air” around 2:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 19. The roommate told police that he recovered a bloody butcher knife from the defendant before she left the scene.

After the bail hearing, Espinoza is expected to have a preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. Oct. 25.

Those proceedings are projected to last a half-day, according to District Attorney Will Furse.