by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Michael Warren of the district attorney’s office Monday asked for a continuance in the preliminary hearing for a couple arrested in March for a suspected illegal marijuana growing operation discovered at a residence in Huerfano County after officials were called to the scene to investigate a fatal shooting.
Janice Camacho and Agustin Garcia, both 26, have remained in custody since their arrest on marijuana concentrate charges after they reported an alleged home invasion by three men, one of whom was shot dead by the couple on Monday, March 14 at their rented property on Huerfano County Road 530.
Defense attorneys, Joseph Koncilja, representing Garcia and Allison Ernst, representing Camacho, were prepared for the show cause hearing on the marijuana charges early this week, however, the district attorney’s office said while there were nearly 500 pages of discovery in the case already, there were important missing reports from both the Colorado Bureau Investigation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency they had requested but had not yet received.
“We’re going to file more felony counts in this case that are preliminary hearing entitled charges, possibly including first degree murder and I suggest we continue the preliminary hearing (to another date),” Warren told District Court Judge Claude Appel.
Koncilja said he wouldn’t object to the continuance if both defendants were allowed lower bonds. Both have been held on $50,000 cash only bonds since their arrest. Family members of the defendants were in court in Walsenburg Monday having recently arrived from the couple’s home state of Florida.
The defenders said they had not received any photos of the crime scene, or lab reports concerning the marijuana that was confiscated and wanted to ensure the plants were not destroyed by the DEA. Koncilja said two cell phones were left behind, possibly by the alleged home invaders, and he had not seen any reports concerning whose phones they were and what contact and call history information they may contain.
The shooting death of one of the alleged home invaders, Jorge Gonzalez, 39, remains under investigation and no charges have been filed against either Camacho or Garcia in connection with his death. Neither of the other two alleged home have been identified. Koncilja said he was prepared to play the audio tape of the initial 911 call made by Camacho as part of the preliminary hearing.
He also said he was in possession of two medical marijuana cards that would cover nearly 200 of the over 400 plants the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office said were removed from the site by the DEA.
Warren said he had just been made aware of the medical marijuana cards in possession of the defense. Koncilja said both Garcia and Camacho were tied up by Gonzalez and Camacho began to suffer an asthma attack as she was being bound, and both were able to break free, get ahold of his weapon and defend themselves.
Warren, who leaves the DA’s office on Friday, told the court, “We are about to file additional charges, felony charges.”
Koncilja, one of the more flamboyant defense attorneys in southern Colorado, fired back, “ Any DA who files murder charges in this case shouldn’t be a lawyer and if I can’t win this case I shouldn’t be a lawyer.”
Hyperbole aside, Judge Appel reset the preliminary hearing for 1:30 pm Monday, June 20 and reduced Garcia’s bond to $15,000 cash or surety and Camacho’s to $5,000 cash or surety.
Huerfano jail staff confirmed both Garcia and Camacho were released on bond on Tuesday, May 10th.
Sources close to the investigation commenting on the supposed medical marijuana cards issued to both Camacho and Garcia, say they list the couple as ‘care givers’ for the individual who owns the property on CR 530. However, investigators tell the World Journal, the property owner lives in Florida. They also say the term care giver, under state medical marijuana laws, refers to an individual who provides services other than simply growing medical marijuana, services the couple could not provide to a person living out-of-state.
While the defense may argue the care giver status of the defendants, the issue of county-imposed limits on the number of plants allowed to be grown at any location is 12; unless a Conditional Use Permit, a water plan and other requirements have been approved by the Huerfano County Planning Department and then officially approved by the board of county commissioners.
There is no evidence on file with the county planning/land use office that any CUP has been applied for regarding the CR 530 location.