12-gauge, butcher knife used in separate killings

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 11:07 PM

Prosecutors in the 22nd Judicial District have filed first-degree murder charges in separate homicides that occurred last week in Cortez.

Court records reveal that Jeroen Begay, 19, of 236 S. Chestnut St., fired four shots with a 12-gauge shotgun inside a residence at Cedar Terrace Apartments around 10:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, killing 21-year-old Natalie Hatch and injuring 18-year-old Quincy Yellow.

Upon arriving at the scene, police found Hatch lying near the front door in a pool of blood, and Yellow lying nearby with a gunshot wound to his lower right leg, reports show. Police said the smell of burnt gunpowder was evident inside the residence, which was rented to Hatch.

According to reports, both victims and others had been drinking with the suspect throughout the day when Yellow and Begay got into a physical confrontation. Begay and another man reportedly left the scene after another woman was hit in the left eye.

In a four-page report by Cortez Police Department Detective Gary Stevens, witnesses said Begay returned to the second floor residence approximately a half-hour later wearing a mask. Begay allegedly shot Hatch when she answered the front door, then he proceeded to fire three more shots through a bedroom door.

Police said Begay then left the scene with an unknown woman. On the night in question, approximately 45 minutes later, Begay received a ride to a relative’s home in Dennehotso, Ariz.

Arrested Friday, Sept. 20, Begay is charged with a single count of first-degree murder and two additional counts of attempted first-degree murder. As of press time, he remained in custody without bond.

Yellow was released from a Grand Junction hospital last week.

Second killing

In an unrelated homicide, police arrested Valerie Espinoza, 38, of Cortez on Thursday, Sept. 19, in connection to a stabbing death earlier that morning on the 200 block of S. Madison Street.

Court records reveal that Charles Chaves, 62, was discovered lying on his bed, “gasping for air” by a roommate around 2:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 19. The roommate told police that he recovered a bloody butcher knife from the suspect.

According to a two-page report by Cortez Police Department Detective Ryan Loyd, Chaves was pronounced dead upon arrival at Southwest Memorial Hospital after suffering from seven stab wounds to his right torso, upper arm and stomach.

The roommate told police that as he searched for his cellphone to call 911, Espinoza left the residence through a back door.

Police arrested Espinoza just before 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, charging her with a single count of first-degree murder. While transporting her to jail, she reportedly told police, “I’m sorry.”