The change in defendant Isaiah Rios’ appearance from the time of his arrest to his murder trial this week and its possible effect on witness identification took center stage as testimony in the case continued Tuesday.
Rios, 30, is charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and felony murder in the death of Gary Hockaday.
Rios also is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, motor vehicle theft, second-degree trespassing, theft from an at-risk person, criminal mischief, felony menacing, theft and habitual criminal sentence enhancers.
Police found Hockaday, 80, dead in his home in the 2200 block of Jewel Street in Longmont on July 18, 2019, after his wife came home and found the home ransacked and their truck gone.
Hockaday was found at the base of the basement stairs, and forensic pathologist Dr. Daniel Lingamfelter testified Tuesday that Hockaday had been stabbed 56 times, most of them in his upper back and neck area. While none hit any significant arteries or vessels, Lingamfelter said collectively they would have caused massive blood loss.
Lingamfelter said Hockaday also had a number of blunt force injuries that caused internal bleeding as well as heart disease.
Lingamfelter ultimately ruled the cause of death multiple sharp and blunt force injuries, with a contributing factor of heart disease. Lingamfelter said he could “only opine” that either stab wounds or the blunt force injuries alone could have been fatal.
“The reality of it is he had 56 sharp force injuries plus a number of blunt force injuries,” he said.
Lingamfelter ruled the death a homicide.
“The investigation and autopsy findings were consistent with the injuries being caused by another individual or individuals,” he said.
After the body was found, police were called by witnesses who reported suspicious activity at a storage facility at 12121 Sugar Mill Road, about a 15-minute drive away. Police found Rios hiding in one of the storage units and found Hockaday’s truck on scene filled with items from the Hockaday home.
Police said Rios had been tied to a string of assaults, threats and break-ins in the days and hours before the killing, and the past two days featured testimony of witnesses in those incidents.
However, several of the witnesses did not know Rios and were unable to identify him in court, even after those in the courtroom were instructed to briefly remove their masks.
Longmont police Officer Mark Deaton, who was a detective on the case and is the prosecution’s advisory witness and has been in the courtroom for the entire trial, took the stand Tuesday and said Rios’ appearance has changed in the 15 or so months since the incidents.
“The defendant currently appears to wear glasses, his hair has changed, his facial hair has changed, and his build is larger,” Deaton noted, adding that Rios is now a “larger individual.”
Deaton specifically noted the change in hair and facial hair now better hides a scalp and facial tattoos.
Witnesses had described the man they saw in the July incidents as a “lanky” Hispanic man with numerous tattoos.
In addition, several detectives and officers took the stand to testify that several witnesses who were not able to identify Rios in court during trial were able to pick him out of a photo lineup at the time of the incidents.
Earlier, Longmont police Officer Bryan Franke, who did a forensic examination of Rios’ phone found in the storage unit, said Rios was texting his sister while inside the unit.
Franke said one text read, “Rather be dead than to live forever behind bars.”
Franke said another text referenced a truck that police believe Rios stole from the home of his mom and then-stepfather days before the murder, in which former Longmont police Officer Victoria Bellah testified a backpack containing Rios’ ID was recovered.
Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman told jurors Tuesday morning that prosecutors hoped to rest their case later in the day, with closing arguments to take place Wednesday or Thursday.
But testimony Tuesday ran long, and it now appears the jury will get the case for deliberations after closing arguments Thursday after testimony ends Wednesday.
Boulder Chief Trial Deputy Adrian Van Nice also said a witness that had initially reported possible COVID-19 exposure got a rapid test and tested negative for the virus, and is scheduled to testify Wednesday.
The trial can be seen on WebEx at courts.state.co.us/Courts/District/Custom.cfm?District_ID=20&Page_ID=1053 by selecting Courtroom P.