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Mother speaks out after son’s killer is acquitted in retrial in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Days after the man who shot and killed her son was acquitted of second-degree murder in a retrial, the mother of Tyler Lackey is speaking out.

“I’ve never even pretended to want justice, there isn’t any,” said Liz Frank, mother of Tyler Lackey. “There’s nothing anybody can say or do, he’s not going to feel the pain I’ve been through with my family.”

And now, that may seem even further away for Frank.

In 2016, her son Tyler Lackey was at an ATM when Matthew Chavez tried to rob him. According to witness testimony, Lackey took out his gun which his mother said he had legally. Chavez shot and killed Lackey. He then drove off and set the stolen car he was driving on fire.

In 2018, Chavez was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 23.5 years. But that all changed after Chavez appealed his conviction and had a retrial.

“We’d already spent four days in a courtroom watching video of my son getting hit by two bullets and falling to the ground while Chavez drove off. To think that I was going to have to do it again, it left me kind of dysfunctional for a while,” said Frank. Chavez was claiming self-defense and this jury agreed.

“We find the defendant not guilty of second-degree murder as in charge of count one. We find the defendant not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in charged in the lesser charge of count one,” said Judge Cindy Leos as she read the jury’s verdict. The jury only found him guilty of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.

“12 people said that it was acceptable for my son to be shot dead twice and it was unacceptable to burn up a car. It’s still hard to process,” said Frank.

She questions what was and wasn’t allowed in court this time around like the prosecution not being allowed to mention Lackey’s military service and Chavez’s previous convictions. “There were a lot of surprises,” she said.

She also questions what she calls a loophole in New Mexico law that allows someone who started out as the aggressor to later claim self-defense. “He didn’t have to shoot and if he was scared of guns getting pointed at him then maybe he should’ve not committed armed robbery and got a job,” said Frank.

There have been efforts in Tyler Lackey’s name to change this law but they’ve never been passed.

Reporter: What does it do to any healing you’ve been able to do in the past few years?
Frank: I kind of have to start over.

She’s remembering Tyler as a son with a sense of humor and a loving brother who went through the proper channels to leave his station in Germany in order to take care of his half-sister. “He crossed an ocean and a continent to save his little sister. That’s who Tyler was,” said Frank.

KRQE News 13 asked the New Mexico Department of Justice if they would push to bring back Tyler Lackey’s bill that would not allow an initial aggressor to claim self-defense. A spokesperson said they are still evaluating which bills they’d like to advocate for in the upcoming special session on public safety.

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