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Top Skier Acquitted of Murdering Man During Sales Negotiation Gone Wrong


New Mexico jurors have acquitted a top skier of murdering a man with whom he was doing business.

Defendant Dean Cummings, 56, testified he shot and killed Guillermo Arriola in self-defense on Feb. 29, 2020. Jurors appeared to agree with that account, or with defense lawyer Nicole Moss‘ argument that the law enforcement investigation was “half-hearted, sloppy, incomplete.” They acquitted Cummings of not only second-degree murder, but the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Cummings, who performed for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, had been discussing purchasing some property from Arriola down in Sandoval County, New Mexico. The question at hand was whether he broke the law by shooting and killing Arriola with a rifle during a confrontation.

Assistant District Attorney Johnna Walker argued there were contradictions in Cummings’ story. She argued that Cummings lied about Arriola attacking him with a black canister. Cummings did not immediately tell anyone about a struggle. Instead, he focused on finding a witness to the canister, she said. But a witness after the homicide smelled nothing: no poison, neurological agent, or mace.

“Mr. Cummings made this whole thing up to justify what he did,” she said. “And you can see in that photo, that can is facing Mr. Arriola.”

Cummings testified that he spoke with Arriola on Feb. 29, 2020. He claimed Arriola’s demeanor was different from other times. Arriola was short with him, wearing a scowl, he said. He was not in a good mood or something, Cummings said.

Cummings said he worried that the deal was falling through. They talked about it for about eight to 10 minutes. It started getting heated.

“I called him a scammer, and that really blew him off the top,” he said. “That really made him angry.”

Arriola ran across the kitchen from several feet, something in his right hand, and swung at him, Cummings said. A fight started.

During direct examination, Cummings said that Arriola appeared intoxicated, though he was not sure if this was from drinking or smoking weed. The defense noted that Arriola was on cocaine when he died. Cummings testified to Arriola never sharing information of cocaine use with him.

He said that he shot Arriola while they were both struggling over the gun.

Moss told jurors that that there were holes in the state’s investigation. The state, for example, never got Cummings’ 911 call despite getting other calls made by a witness. Also, bodycam footage seemed to disappear.

“Crazy,” she said.

She suggested the officer either lied about running his camera or the videos were destroyed/lost.

There was also never a complete shooting reconstruction, she said.

She noted that a former officer testified that Cummings refused to give a name. Upon being confronted with belt tape audio, however, the officer admitted he never asked Cummings his name.

She argued that the prosecution wanted to spin it like her client had no emotions, and yet as heard in a recording, one of the first things he said was “I’m devastated.” A witness described the defendant as appearing “pretty shook up.”

Prosecutors and law enforcement failed to accomplish a “thorough, unbiased investigation,” she said.

[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]

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