Report: MMA Fighter Cleared of Jan. 1 Homicide Charge in New Mexico



Mixed martial artist Joe Torrez will not be charged with homicide in the Jan. 1 death of a man who broke into his home in Dona Ana, N.M., according to a report in the Las Cruces Sun News.

Torrez, 28, fought four intruders who invaded his home on New Year’s Day. One of those men, 25-year-old Sal Garces, was stabbed four times in chest during the altercation and died at the scene. Throughout the case, Torrez, whose fiance and son were home during the break-in, claimed he acted in self defense. Dona Ana County authorities announced that Torrez would not be charged on Thursday.

“It was like a weight was lifted this morning,” Torrez told the Sun-News. “No matter what … I had it in my mind.”

A statement by Torrez can be viewed here.

The three other men who allegedly entered Torrez’s home -- Nathan M. Avalos, Raymond Garces and Leonard Calvillo -- have all been indicted on aggravated burglary, conspiracy, attempted battery and criminal damage to property charges and are still awaiting trial. Two others, Rachel Carrillo and Cylver Betancourt, are facing aggravated burglary charges stemming from that night.

Torrez remained a suspect because Dona Ana County Sheriff’s investigators noticed that evidence did not match Torrez’s initial statements. While Torrez at first claimed to not know the intruders, an investigation “revealed a history of incidents between Torrez, his then-girlfriend and those charged with the break-in,” according to the Sun-News.

The case lasted nearly eight months because authorities reportedly sent weapons found near Garces’ body to a lab to be tested and were awaiting results; Torrez’s DNA was not found on the weapons.

However, Dona Ana County Sheriff spokeswoman told the Sun-News that the case is suspended, not closed, meaning resources will not be actively devoted to the investigation. If new evidence is presented, then the investigation could be revisited.

Torrez is 1-5 as a professional mixed martial artist. He debuted on Aug. 1, 2009, losing to UFC featherweight contender Dustin Poirier at a regional event in Louisiana. He has competed for various promotions since then, most recently losing to Rodrigo Sotelo on July 26, 2013 in El Paso, Texas.

Torrez also notably fought once for the Jackson’s MMA Series, which is an event promoted by the Albuquerque, N.M.-based Jackson-Wink MMA gym.

“Congrats to our friend Joe Torrez on being cleared of charges while defending his family,” read a tweet from the Jackson’s MMA Twitter account on Thursday.

Torrez told the Sun-News that he wants to continue his MMA career but has concerns that fighting in the cage could cause him to have flashbacks to the Jan. 1 incident.

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