New Mexico prosecutors: MMA fighter won’t be charged in death

Joseph Torrez
Joseph Torrez

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP/KRQE) — Prosecutors in southern New Mexico say a professional mixed martial artist won’t be charged in a fatal stabbing of an intruder during a suspected home invasion at the fighter’s home.

The District Attorney’s office in Las Cruces announced Thursday that a thorough investigation did not produce evidence to prove that Joseph Torrez killed 25-year-old Sal Garces on Jan. 1 without legal justification.

The office says its conclusion was based on evidence turned up by the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, which didn’t recommend prosecution of Torrez.

The District Attorney’s Office says it can’t discuss facts of the case because several people await trial on charges of aggravated burglary and other crimes.

In January, Torrez’s attorney C.J. McElhinney told The Associated Press that he feared the 27-year-old still may face charges even though he was protecting his family and home during the violent home invasion last week.

According to Dona Ana County sheriff’s officials, Sal Garces, 25, died Jan. 1 from stab wounds after he and three other men broke into Torrez’s mobile home north of Las Cruces.

Torrez, his fiancee and a toddler were home at the time, deputies said. One of the men had threatened Torrez and his family in a phone call before the break-in, authorities said.

McElhinney said Torrez fought off the intruders, killing one and injuring another with “serious facial injuries.” He said one man attacked Torrez with a handmade shank and another grabbed a kitchen knife.

Leonard Calvillo, 22, and Raymond Garces, 19, the brother of the man who was killed, are facing aggravated burglary and aggravated battery charges, court records show.

Nathan Avalos, 20, was taken to an El Paso hospital and authorities say they plan on charging him when he is released.

KRQE reported that an autopsy in June showed Garces was stabbed four times in the chest, and he had a blood alcohol content nearly two times the legal limit.

According to Tapology.com, Torrez is a lightweight fighter with a 1-5 professional record. He was knocked out in his last fight, a July 2013 bout against Rodrigo Sotelo in El Paso, Texas.

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