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Defense: El Paso police cut corners during combat veteran murder investigation

Mug shot Stephanie Fernandez

The trial of a woman accused of being the driver of a getaway car in a deadly stabbing is underway.

Stephanie Fernandez, of Socorro, Texas, was arrested in connection with the death of Tyler Kaden Croke, 23.

Croke was stabbed to death in May 2017 at the Cantera Apartments at 1501 Lomaland Drive in East El Paso. Police said the stabbing happened during a drug robbery.

The defense on Thursday tried to prove that Fernandez was not in her normal mental state and was under duress the night the stabbing occurred.

The trial began Monday in the 210th District Court, with Judge Gonzalo Garcia presiding.

The jury got to see a video statement where Fernandez confessed to driving the getaway car.

But the defense tried to prove two things: that she was under duress and the investigation was sloppy.

Police fingerprint supervisor, Bruce Orndorf, testified that one of the crime scene officers on the case was working two different cases and got the cases mixed up. The supervisor told the jury the officer submitted the wrong fingerprints from another murder into this murder case file.

Another El Paso police officer, Detective James Morales, testified that he was interviewing Fernandez in the confession tape. He said that when Fernandez asked him where the microphone was, he told her they weren't recording because, "I'm allowed to lie to her." And, "I wanted to make her feel comfortable."

A DNA expert testified when the jury wasn't in the courtroom that evidence was collected showing blood, but that DNA was never run to find out who's blood it belonged to.

The defense and state both rested their case Thursday afternoon. Closing arguments will happen Friday morning, then the jury is expected to begin deliberations.

Fernandez was among five people arrested in Croke’s death: Tristan Chilton, 21, of Socorro, Texas; Brandon Olsen, 27, of Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Zachary Johnston, 20, and Adam Acosta, 19, both of Fort Bliss, were arrested in Las Cruces in connection with Croke’s death.



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