MORIARTY, N.M. (KRQE) — A man initially accused of killing a woman and stuffing her body in a van has suddenly been released from jail and the charges against him have been dropped.
Moriarty Police called the death of 47-year-old Tammie Cessna an “obvious homicide” after she was found badly beaten in her van on Jan. 18. Police then arrested Tammie’s boyfriend, Mark Chavez.
However, it appears that the district attorney’s office handling the case doesn’t have enough evidence to charge Chavez right now.
The news came as a surprise Friday to Wendy Cessna, the sister of Tammie.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Wendy.
Wendy calls it another crushing emotional blow in the case after it took investigators five days to figure out that Tammie’s dead body was locked inside her van which was being held as evidence in a police impound lot.
The latest development was filed in court Thursday as prosecutors filed to drop the charges against Mark Chavez.
“You know with the condition she was in, I don’t understand how they can’t come up with something,” said Wendy.
According to the criminal complaint against Chavez, investigators found a large blood stain on the carpet inside Chavez’s room at a Super 8 Motel in Moriarty. Investigators also found a bloody towel in the room, similar to one found in Cessna’s van.
Despite that evidence, Chavez was released from the Torrance County Jail on Friday. Cessna’s sister Wendy learned about his release through a phone call from KRQE News 13.
“And my biggest fear is that he’s going to run. He’s going to be gone,” said Wendy Cessna.
Wendy says she spoke to the Torrance County DA’s Office about the case earlier this week who said there’s a problem.
“Because the evidence from the lab hasn’t came back and the cause of death hasn’t came back yet,” said Wendy.
Court papers filed in Torrance County Magistrate Court on Thursday back those claims. Prosecutors filed a “nolle prosequi,” saying the charges against Chavez have been “dismissed without prejudice pending further investigation including, but not limited to, receipt and consideration of autopsy findings and associated analysis, forensic testing of trace evidence and field investigative follow-up.”
Chavez can still be charged with murder. However, it’s unclear if or when he will be. Tammie’s family says that’s disturbing.
“I think the police, the state police, did what they were supposed to do. All the state police can do is gather the evidence and give the information to the district attorney. I think it’s the district attorney that’s dropping the ball here,” said Wendy.
On Friday, KRQE News 13 spoke to the prosecutor involved in the case, Timothy Cornish. Cornish said his office cannot comment on the likelihood that charges will be refiled against Chavez. Cornish added that the case is still under investigation.