A Santa Fe jury acquitted a man late Wednesday of murdering a preschool teacher who intervened to stop a fight with his girlfriend, but he could be retried on two lesser charges.
After deliberating for four days, a jury found Adrian Gonzales, 31, not guilty of first- and second-degree murder in the Dec. 2, 2011, fatal stabbing of Victoriano Moises Byrne-Gonzales, 21. Jurors could not reach verdicts on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Byrne-Gonzales and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the stabbing of another man. A mistrial was declared on those counts.
In addition, the jury found Gonzales not guilty of battery on a household member. He had been accused of beating his girlfriend at the time, Natasha Romero, during their fight before the stabbings.
As the verdict was read, Gonzales smiled slightly while dozens of family members and friends of Byrne-Gonzales began to cry. The family declined to speak to reporters after the verdict was read.
Prosecutors said Byrne-Gonzales was trying to do the right thing when he was stabbed in the neck while attempting to stop Gonzales from beating Gonzales' girlfriend.
Defense attorney Joseph Campbell said Gonzales was defending himself.
Gonzales said he thought the men were the same men he had caught earlier in the day trying to steal a television from his girlfriend's mother's home.
"He didn't know he had killed anyone. Why didn't he know? He didn't intend to kill anyone," Campbell said earlier. "The only thing he intended to do was get out of that situation."
Family members said Byrne-Gonzales was an expectant father and art teacher who had just been promoted to assistant director at his Santa Fe preschool when he was fatally stabbed. An aspiring artist and a former intern at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, friends said Byrne-Gonzales loved children and was eager to help others.
His fiancee gave birth to the couple's first son, Zayden, a week after he died.
"He was so excited to be a father," Barbara Byrne, Byrne-Gonzales's mother, told the Santa Fe New Mexican. "And he was going to be a great father."