By John Colson
Sopris Sun correspondent
The Carbondale man accused of slashing his wife to death with a machete on Feb. 16 had threatened to kill her at some point late last year, and to then kill himself by crashing his car, according to an interview with the victim’s sister.
The sister told authorities that the two had separated for a couple of months last year and that, during that separation, Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, 46, had sent an email to his wife, the late Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya, 30, containing those threats.
Court documents also seemed to offer conflicting information about whether Navarrete-Portillo and his wife were alone in the apartment where the victim died.
According to a police report, there were two children in the apartment when officers got there to investigate.
And while there have been some indications that others were in the apartment, located at 30 Cooper Pl. on the west side of town, on the morning of that day, the suspect in the case at one point told police there was no one there but him and his wife.
“No one else was hurt but Maria,” stated an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for Navarrete-Portillo, who currently is being tried for first degree murder in the death of his late wife. “There was nobody else there.”
But at a point later in the affidavit, the suspect is quoted as saying, “Nobody saw what he did or knew what he did, they were all asleep.”
The presence of the children came to light when an unnamed woman told police she was the renter of the apartment where Portillo-Amaya died and, after telling the police to stay out, went inside and found the victim in a bedroom.
Returning to the front door with two children in tow, the woman was “in obvious distress” and told the officers, “She’s dead” and “she’s not breathing,” and then allowed the police to enter the apartment.
Police first became involved in the case after Navarrete-Portillo crashed his tan Toyota 4Runner into the back of an empty livestock truck on Highway 133 at shortly after 7 a.m. on Feb. 16.
It was while Navarrete-Portillo, who indicated he is from El Salvador, was being flown to Grand Junction for treatment of injuries to his legs and body, that he allegedly told a Spanish-speaking crew member in the plane that he, Navarrete-Portillo, had killed his wife in Carbondale just prior to the accident.
The affidavit, written by Carbondale Police Officer Luke Blue, is a 14-page document that relates what Navarrete-Portillo and others told authorities about the incidents that lead to his being hospitalized and, after two weeks of treatment at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, to his being arrested.
A Feb. 17 interview in Grand Junction was translated from Spanish into English by Grand Junction Police Officer Steve Cowgill, working with FBI agent Rosa Perez, and the details of the conversation were later told by Perez to Blue.
In the document, Navarrete-Portillo is quoted as saying he killed his wife with a “large knife,” and the document reports that a machete covered in blood and dark, bloody hair was found in a closet off the room where Portillo-Amaya died.
Navarrete-Portillo also is reported as saying he and his wife “drank two inches of wine before it happened” but that “neither of them was drunk” and that neither of them “use illegal or prescription drugs.”
Although he “said he was really mad at her,” Navarrete-Portillo told Perez he could not recall why he was mad, and that “it wasn’t about another man or money.” When asked if they had any prior domestic difficulties before this incident, he “said he doesn’t want to talk about that any more,” according to the affidavit.
Navarette-Portillo also reportedly described the places where he cut his wife with the machete, which coroner Robert Kurtzman, who performed the autopsy on the victim, said amounted to between five and 10 heavy cuts to the mouth and neck areas.
Kurtzman told Officer Blue that it is likely the victim was not killed by the first strike of the blade.
The suspect, in his interview with Perez, told her that after the attack “he went out into the street and wanted to kill himself,” and predicted that once he is convicted and has served his sentence “he will be deported back to El Salvador.”
Authorities on Feb. 18 questioned Mirium Delcid-Delcid, described as Navarrete-Portillo’s former common-law wife and the mother of the suspect’s six-year-old son, concerning whom the couple have shared custody.
According to Delcid-Delcid, the child was with Navarrete-Portillo on Sunday, Feb. 15 and was to have stayed with him until the evening of Monday, Feb. 16.
But at about 4 a.m. on Monday, Delcid-Delcid told Colorado Bureau of Investigation Jim Fuller, Navarrete-Portillo tapped at her bedroom window to awaken her and get her to open the door to her house to admit Navarrete-Portillo and their son.
After entering the home, according to Delcid-Delcid, Navarrete-Portillo told her, “I have just committed a big mistake and I am going to turn myself in to the police.”
Delcid-Delcid told Fuller she could smell alcohol on her former husband’s breath, and that he “appeared to be intoxicated.”
She said she did not see any blood or injuries on Navarrete-Portillo during that conversation.
On Feb. 23, agents Perez and Fuller together interviewed the victim’s sister, Maria Arely Portillo-Amaya, who told police that Navarrete-Portillo and the victim had fought last August or September over his belief that the victim was being unfaithful to him, and that he had kicked her out of their shared home at one point for more than two months.
During their two months of separation, according to the sister, the accused threatened to “commit suicide by crashing his vehicle if they didn’t get back together.”
The sister also said she had seen emails sent to the victim, by Navarrette-Portillo , which stated “something to the effect of, ‘I’m going to kill you where I see you’ and ‘after, I’m going to go to crash to kill myself also.’”