BERNALILLO — Estevan Miguel Chavez, 20, of Moriarty has pled “no contest” to charges stemming from the June 1, 2020, car crash in Rio Rancho that killed 12-year-old Mezmerize Atencio and injured her cousin and Chavez. Sentencing in the case is not expected for another eight weeks.

Accompanied by his attorney Jason Alarid and a few family members, Chavez appeared Tuesday before Judge George Eichwald in 13th Judicial District Court to change his July 2020 plea of “not guilty” to “no contest” to two felony charges: homicide by vehicle (reckless driving) and great bodily injury by vehicle (reckless driving). Three misdemeanor traffic charges were dismissed.

Attorney Neil Carson, representing the state, conferred briefly with Alarid prior to the hearing.

Eichwald asked Chavez if he understood the rights he was giving up in his plea before referring him to an in-court probation officer, tasked with putting together a pre-sentence investigation report, which will aid the judge in sentencing.

The fatal accident occurred last June a little before 3 p.m. near the intersection of NM 528 and Barbara Loop. Chavez, driving a Monte Carlo, was traveling in excess of 100 mph when he collided with the Nissan Maxima, in which 12-year-old Mezmerize Atencio was a passenger. Her cousin, 16 at the time, was driving the Maxima and was injured in the crash and taken to University Hospital in Albuquerque, where Chavez was also transported.

According to data Rio Rancho Police obtained from Monte Carlo’s airbag module, the car was going 104 mph a second before impact.

The speed limit on that stretch of NM 528 is 45 mph.

Maureen Cooke