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Former Santa Fe Deputy accused of killing colleague appears in court for pre-trial hearing

The former Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy accused of killing his colleague inside a Las Cruces hotel appeared in court Tuesday for a pre-trial conference.

Tai Chan is charged with first degree murder. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Chan is accused of firing several shots at his colleague, Jeremy Martin, at a Las Cruces hotel in 2014.

In court Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Gerald Byers told Judge Fernando Macias the state plans to call 93 witnesses during the trial that’s set for May 23.

The trial is expected to last 3 weeks.

During the pre-trial hearing, the defense asked for three of the state’s witnesses to be dismissed. Two of them are expert witnesses and one of them is Martin’s wife, Sarah, who is now widowed.

“The question becomes what’s she being offered for what relevance and is it inflammatory?” Defense Attorney Thomas Clark said.

“Sarah Martin is a valuable witness with regard to important aspects associated with the decedent,” Deputy District Attorney Gerald Byers said. “She would be called (to testify) about a number of things that probably are not common knowledge at this point in the case.”

Judge Macias did not immediately rule on who will be allowed to testify.

According to a criminal complaint, Chan and Martin were staying at an upscale hotel in Las Cruces after dropping off an inmate in Safford, Arizona.

Police say Chan and Martin got into an argument at a bar, when Chan told a friend they would catch a cab back to the hotel.

The criminal complaint states that at about 12:31 a.m., Oct. 28, the friend received a phone call from Chan’s girlfriend, Leah Tafoya, asking him to check on Chan.

The complaint states Tafoya said she was on the phone with Chan when she heard someone yell “please don’t, please don’t” before hearing gunshots.

Las Cruces Police officers arrived at Hotel Encanto after receiving several 911 calls about shots being fired and a wounded man in the lobby. The wounded man was Martin.

Officers found Martin bleeding profusely and drove him to Memorial Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Chan was fired from his position with the Santa Fe sheriff’s office.

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