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Navarrete-Portillo murder trial continues

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The jury in the murder trial of Carbondale resident Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, accused of murdering his wife with a machete last year, was expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday after closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense, according to court officials.

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The jury has heard days of testimony about the incident, which took place on Feb. 16, 2015, when Navarrete-Portillo, 47, allegedly beat up his wife during an argument and then slashed her face and neck with a machete that had been hanging in a closet of their Carbondale apartment.

His defense attorneys from the Glenwood Springs public defender’s office have not disputed that Navarrete-Portillo killed his wife, and the defendant reportedly admitted it while testifying.

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But his attorneys contested whether the act rose to the level of first-degree murder, as he was charged.

Instead, defense attorneys strove to convince the jury that Navarrete-Portillo was incapacitated by a day of drinking with his wife, in the grip of passion, and bereft of his reasoning capabilities when he killed his wife, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya, 30, in the early morning hours.

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His attorneys have asked for conviction of a lesser charge.

On Monday, the defendant testified that his wife taunted him about her having been with another man who performed better sexually than Navarrete-Portillo, driving him into an uncontrollable rage, according to published accounts of the trail proceedings.

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Navarrete-Portillo reportedly spent about three hours on the stand on Monday, describing his memory of the time leading up to the killing and the belittling statements he claimed his wife made to him.

A prosecuting attorney told the jury that Navarrete-Portillo, enraged over the remarks, took the machete out of a closet and slashed her at least five times in the face and neck.

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The defendant said that he and his wife had separated at times during their marriage and that he had seen her with another man, which he described as troubling and difficult for him.

He denied, however, that he had planned to kill her, though he reportedly admitted to writing a letter to the victim’s sister in El Salvador, outlining a murder-suicide plot involving himself and his wife that he admitted he had invented.

Navarrete-Portillo is believed to have been trying to kill himself later on the morning of Feb. 16, 2015, after the murder, by deliberately driving his vehicle into the back of a livestock truck on Highway 82.

He was hospitalized with serious injuries after the crash, and while there he told emergency medical technicians and, later, law enforcement officials that his wife was dead and where she could be found.

The judge in the case, earlier this week, indicated that jury deliberations might spill over into June 16 before a verdict could be reached.

Published in The Sopris Sun on June 16, 2016.

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