FARMINGTON — A driver charged with running over a Farmington woman and killing her while he was high on narcotics has pleaded not guilty.

The defendant, Joe Gallegos, 43, is charged with vehicular homicide, drug trafficking, leaving the scene of an accident, driving while intoxicated and tampering with evidence.

This is the second time Gallegos has faced vehicular homicide charges. He was arrested and convicted in the July 2003 deaths of Manuel Ruiz, 28, and Joseph Vigil, 49.

The case received attention around the state, in part because Vigil was superintendent of the Albuquerque Public Schools.

Gallegos pleaded no contest in April 2004 in Estancia District Court to two counts of vehicular homicide. A no-contest plea means a defendant will not fight the charges. It is treated as a conviction.

Sentenced to seven years in prison, Gallegos was released in March 2011. Nineteen months after he went free, he was arrested again in the Farmington roadway death.

On Oct. 24, police said Gallegos struck Delandra Piochi, 32, at Main Street and Court Avenue.

Witnesses said the vehicle dragged Piochi about 60 feet before stopping, according to court documents. She died at the scene.

Gallegos allegedly fled but was apprehended by police minutes later at a mobile home. Police said Gallegos was in possession of heroin and cocaine and appeared to be high.

Results of his toxicology screen are still pending, said Cosme Ripol, Gallegos' attorney.


Ripol said his client could be facing more than 22 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

"This is a tragic situation, and both my client and I feel terribly for the victim and the victim's family," Ripol said.

The district attorney's staff said Gallegos' criminal history could lengthen his prison sentence if he is convicted.

Gallegos worked as a contract driver for The Daily Times. He is being held at San Juan County Jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond.