The man charged with the murder of longtime Durango resident Karen Cugnini is no longer seeking to represent himself in court, and he will continue with his court-appointed attorney for the scheduled Nov. 28 trial.
Rick Stallings, 50, of Farmington, was arrested in October 2015 for the shooting death of 69-year-old Cugnini, who was found dead from a single gunshot wound in her Flora Vista, New Mexico, home.
In April, The Daily-Times of Farmington reported that Stallings requested to have his attorney, Thomas Clark, dismissed.
However, in a hearing for the motion on Monday, Stallings reversed his decision, and told New Mexico 11th Judicial District Court Judge Karen Townsend he wished to proceed with the appointed public defender.
It is still unclear which charges Stallings will be tried for in November. He faces three separate cases, and on Monday, all parties agreed to “just go with whatever one is ready first,” Townsend said.
Though, according to statements made during the motion hearing, it’s not likely the charge of homicide – the lead case – will proceed in November.
“The November setting is aspirational but we want to keep on the calendar,” Clark said. “The other two charges … are not complicated. We request to keep the November date for potentially one or more of the cases, but not the homicide.”
Stallings is accused of first-degree murder, as well as several other felony theft offenses related to the Oct. 1, 2015, incident.
According to police reports, Stallings broke into Cugnini’s home to steal multiple items, including jewelry, credit cards, checks and a pickup. Authorities said Cugnini came home to find Stallings in her home, which prompted the shooting.
Two days after the murder, Stallings was found at a residence in Farmington and refused to come out, inciting a standoff that required the San Juan County, New Mexico, Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team and Farmington Police to surround the home.
In December, Stallings again found himself in trouble at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, where he was discovered with a shank made out of a pair of glasses.
On Dec. 21, he was charged with possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner – a second-degree felony.
On Monday, his attorney Clark pushed the court to allow Stallings to acquire new glasses “to be able to read the pleadings and read the discovery,” and other documents related to the case.
Eleventh Judicial District Court Attorney Trevor Maveal cautioned that approval not only because of Stalling’s past handiwork with glasses, but also the allegation letters Stallings wrote stated that transport from the jail is “weak (and) it would be his opportunity to escape.”
Ultimately, the state conceded to Stalling’s request for a pair of spectacles.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 24.