Committee Approves Removing Statute Of Limitations For Second-Degree Murder

SANTA FE — The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee unanimously approved Tuesday House Bill 33, legislation sponsored by Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) to remove the statute of limitations for prosecuting second-degree murder. 

Prior to approving the bill, the Committee agreed to substitute the original text with language combining HB 33 with a similar bill, HB 115, sponsored by Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque). Rehm is a retired officer with Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and Maestas is a former prosecutor. 

New Mexico is the only state in the U.S. that places a statute of limitations on second-degree murder. Prosecutors cannot pursue second-degree murder cases if the crime was committed more than six years earlier. This limitation hinders prosecutors in bringing suspected murderers to justice. 

As an example, in 2002, an Albuquerque woman, Ellen Snyder, killed her husband and buried him in her backyard. His body was not discovered until 2010. Because eight years had passed, Snyder could not be charged with second-degree murder, and she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter instead. 

“The difference between first-degree and second-degree murder is slight, but while there is no statute of limitations on first-degree murder, we unnecessarily restrict prosecutors to a six-year time limit to pursue cases of second-degree murder,” Rehm said. “Removing this limitation will help prosecutors pursue justice in cold cases and other murders. It is the right thing to do for victims and their families.”

The bill is backed by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the New Mexico State Police Department, and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. 

HB 33 has also been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.