ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Why did the county jail let an accused murderer walk free when he should’ve been held indefinitely?
While Bernalillo County officials are admitting they made a mistake in releasing Angel Celis from the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) on Monday, the county isn’t necessarily accepting blame for what happened.
County officials claim there was no paperwork indicating Angel Celis should have stayed at MDC on a no bond hold for his murder charges. However, court records show there’s been plenty of communication between the courts and MDC about Celis’s murder case.
Celis’ release forced Albuquerque Police officers into an emergency manhunt Monday night. Albuquerque Police Department says detectives caught up with Celis inside a room at the Bow and Arrow Lodge at Central and Utah around 7 p.m.
“It became a number one priority for our undercover guys,” said APD Officer Simon Drobik of the manhunt for Celis.
Inside the room Celis was arrested in, police say they found two guns, heroin and other people.
Bernalillo County spokeswoman Tia Bland admits MDC made a mistake.
“Well, we take it very seriously,” said Bland in a Tuesday interview with KRQE News 13.
However, the county is also not accepting fault yet for what happened.
“We’re not going to speculate at this particular point on what went wrong,” said Bland. “I think we just need to talk to all the players and get an understanding of what the process should have been and try to fix it so we don’t have this kind of situation in the future.”
So far, Bland says MDC administration believes that the jail followed the rules in releasing Celis.
“We believe that the jail did follow its own procedures in making sure that it did not have any other court holds or anything that basically would have prevented this particular inmate from being released,” said Bland.
To understand what happened, it’s important to note that Celis has multiple criminal charges against him related to different cases.
Celis was charged around Feb. 13, 2016 for the murder of two women in Albuquerque. The murders are said to have occurred on Jan. 20, 2016, while Celis was out on parole and probation for a different crime.
Before Celis was connected to the murder case, he was arrested on Feb. 9, 2016 and charged with violating his parole and probation. Due to that violation, Celis was sent to the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility in Los Lunas on Feb. 19, 2016, according to the Department of Corrections.
It wasn’t until March 2016 that Celis was ordered to a “no bond hold” in the murder case. However, when he received that order, he was in the custody of the New Mexico Department of Corrections in Los Lunas.
In May 2016, a judge sentenced Celis to serve prison time with the state until December 2016, then finish out the 364 days left on his probation violation sentence in MDC.
Even though the county has been in custody of Celis for the last year, they claim they had no idea Celis also had a no bond hold for the murder case.
“Our records people did not find anything in the file that indicated that Mr. Celis needed to be detained after serving the 364-day sentence,” said Bland.
Celis was let out of MDC on Monday when his 364-day probation violation sentence ended at MDC. The county calls his release a paperwork problem.
(“We’re) just trying to figure out what the paper trail should have been and where the hiccup occurred,” said Bland.
However, New Mexico’s online court records show MDC likely should have known plenty about Celis’ murder case. Celis was transported back and forth between Bernalillo County District Court and MDC more than a dozen times in 2017 for various hearings in his murder case.
Bernalillo County officials also told KRQE News 13 that it based Celis’ release on the “hardcopy” paperwork in Celis’ file from the New Mexico Department of Corrections. Bland told KRQE News 13 that the “hardcopy” paperwork file did not contain any information on Celis’ murder case.
The New Mexico Department of Corrections responded Tuesday, saying any allegations it was at fault for a lack of communication about Celis are “false.” Their full statement is as follows:
“Any allegations that this inmate (Angel Celis) was released because of lack of paperwork from DOC (New Mexico Department of Corrections) is absolutely false. The corrections institution where the inmates are housed is responsible for those inmates. The Department of Corrections complied with the court order/detainer and transported this inmate to MDC to serve his commitment on order revoking his probation after he served time for his parole violation at our prison. Subsequent criminal charges filed by (the District Attorney) are the responsibility of the detention center housing the inmate and law enforcement. The New Mexico Corrections Department didn’t have jurisdiction over this individual since Dec. 5, 2016. It’s the department policy to check possible pending charges against inmates before they are released into the community.”
–Mahesh Sita, Spokesman, New Mexico Department of Corrections
Celis remains in MDC on the no bond hold for his murder case after APD arrested him without incident Monday night. A hearing on Celis’ on mental competency in the murder case Tuesday was rescheduled.