A screenshot of a television ad that highlighted the case of Christopher Beltran and blamed Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for his early release before he went on to kill his ex-girlfriend in 2021. (Used with permission of the Republican Governors’ Association)
During this week’s gubernatorial debate, a Roswell murder case emerged as the latest flashpoint in New Mexico’s reckoning with high violent crime rates.
Republican Mark Ronchetti accused Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration of releasing Christopher Beltran early from prison twice, before he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend in June 2021.
“This is the kind of story we see too often across New Mexico because we have a soft on crime approach and a ‘catch and release’ approach,” Ronchetti said, adding the problem was not with New Mexico law enforcement officers.
The morning after the debate, a political committee affiliated with the Republican Governors Association launched a TV ad highlighting the case.
But Lujan Grisham responded by criticizing Ronchetti for politicizing the case, while also pointing the finger at Roswell area District Attorney Dianna Luce, a Republican, and a state judge for not pursuing gun-related charges against Beltran that could have kept Beltran behind bars for longer.
“What’s shocking is my opponent’s description of facts that are fact-less,” Lujan Grisham said during the Wednesday evening debate hosted by KOAT-TV, along with KKOB Radio and the Journal.
The state Democratic Party has also entered the fray by accusing Ronchetti of lying about the Beltran case.
So who’s really to blame?
Court records show Beltran was released from the Penitentiary of New Mexico outside Santa Fe on Sept. 28, 2020 – just 12 days before his scheduled parole date – under an executive order issued by Lujan Grisham during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed inmates to be released early from prison if they met certain qualifying criteria.