Española man rejects plea deal in stepdaughter's death

Sep. 1—ALBUQUERQUE — Years of litigation were set to come to an end Wednesday as Renezmae Calzada's family sat in a courtroom at the Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse.

Malcolm Torres, who is charged with second-degree murder in connection with his 5-year-old stepdaughter's death, was set to take a plea agreement offered by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque.

However, when the moment came, Torres rejected the agreement. Court documents show Torres also rejected a previous offer in July.

A few minutes after speaking with U.S. attorneys and Torres' lawyers in a backroom, Judge William P. Johnson announced Torres' intention to reject the agreement and admitted it as a sealed exhibit.

Torres told the judge he understood the terms of the agreement and the potential consequences which may arise from choosing to reject it. He is scheduled to stand trial in March.

Torres' attorneys, Aric Elsenheimer and Buck Glanz, declined to comment on their client's decision.

U.S. Attorney Jack Burkhead referred questions regarding the change of plea hearing to Scott Howell.

Howell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque, also declined to comment.

Renezmae, of Santa Clara Pueblo, was found dead in the Rio Grande several days after her mother reported her missing in September 2019.

Torres was taken into custody as a person of interest after the girl's mother, Victoria Maestas of Santa Clara Pueblo, told police the girl had last been seen with Torres — with whom Maestas has a son. He was later charged with killing the girl.

The pair shared custody of the children while a custody case was pending, according to court records.

Authorities have released few details about Renezmae's death, where exactly her body was found or how she may have ended up in a river that is at least a mile from the east-central Española yard where she was last seen, according to reports from the time.

During a 2019 memorial for Renezmae, one of her cousins, Donavan Maestas, delivered a eulogy. He recalled a moment when he asked Renezmae's mother about her favorite memories with her daughter. He relayed to those mourning how Victoria Maestas reacted.

"I stared at her and watched as tears rolled down her face," Donovan Maestas said. "There was this silence. I realized that is the hardest thing she or any other mother would have to do. She never thought in a million years that those moments would just become memories."