Prosecutors Allege Series Of Beatings Led To Fatal Shooting, Jury Believes Otherwise


A jury found Steven Candelaria guilty of second degree murder, aggravated battery against a household member, aggravated assault against a household member, and abuse of a child. Candelaria could face over 25 years in prison, sentencing will take place in 2023.

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO — Defense attorney Stephen Lane alleges Steven Candelaria fired in self-defense, fatally shooting an armed man who confronted him outside an Albuquerque apartment in 2020. However, prosecutors allege Candelaria and his brother arrived at Luciano Montoya’s apartment seeking revenge and pistol whipped a woman before firing more than a dozen gunshots at Montoya’s home, fatally injuring Montoya.

Candelaria, 31, is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 17, 2020, shooting death of 39 year old Montoya. Candelaria also is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. This charge alleges he struck his girlfriend, Raquel Martinez-Chavez, in the head with a pistol just moments before Montoya’s death.

Candelaria’s attorney, Stephen Lane, told jurors that Montoya fired the first shots. He stated that Candelaria and his brother, Brandon Candelaria, fired in self-defense.

“Luciano Montoya came charging out of his apartment with a gun.” Lane said in opening statements. “He shot at Steven Candelaria. Steven and Brandon returned fire and Luciano was struck and killed.”

After he was shot in the torso, Montoya fled inside his apartment. Officers found him in the kitchen, deceased.

Brandon Candelaria, 27, also faces first-degree murder and other charges in Montoya’s death. His trial has not been scheduled.

Martinez-Chavez, who has two children with Montoya, wept as she described giving Montoya CPR in the moments before he died.

Prosecutors painted a different picture than the defense. They allege that Candelaria beat Martinez-Chavez. After she described what happened to her to Montoya, the two planned to have someone “go beat Candelaria for what he did to Raquel”, according to Assistant District Attorney Natalie Lyon.

Armed men arrived at Candelaria’s apartment and pistol whipped him, Lyon said. In response, Candelaria and his brother drove to Montoya’s apartment the following day, leading to the gunfire that killed Montoya, she said. Officers found 18 shell casings outside Montoya’s apartment.

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