Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Homicide Investigations of Assistant DA and Rocket Scientist Slowly Move Forward


It has been about 12 months since Taos County Assistant District Attorney Julia Clark Downs was killed in a tragic car crash on US 64 west of Taos. It has been 15 months since her partner Karl Jürisson was gunned down in her Nob Hill driveway. These homicides happened just three months apart, sending shock waves through New Mexico’s legal, scientific and film industry. 

Still Under Investigation

Jürisson was a well known engineer and rocket scientist, who retired from TRW/Northrop Grumman but went back to work for Quell Corporation doing smart scientist stuff. He had worked on the spectacular James Webb Telescope project. He was shot and killed in Clark Downs driveway as he was leaving her home after stopping by to check on it while Clark Downs’ was out of the country. 

Early reports said eyewitnesses saw someone confront Jürisson in the driveway in what appeared to them to be a carjacking. They saw a man flee and found Jürisson lying in the street. He later died at the hospital. From the beginning, investigators have not spoken about about any suspects. Rumors floated that someone had been in custody since shortly after the murder on unrelated charges but police did not release any information confirming or denying the rumors.

Then this week, a small break. Albuquerque Police Department spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos told The Paper., the case is considered closed on their end. “APD closed this case and forwarded it to the District Attorney’s Office and recommended charges. We can’t release the name of the suspect because he has not been charged. However, we can say he has been incarcerated throughout the investigation on unrelated charges,” Gallegos said.

We checked with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office on the status of the case. “APD has turned it over to us. However, we need further information that is essential to proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore the case is still under active investigation,” Bernco DA spokesperson Lauren Rodriquez said.

Set For Trial

Clark Downs was an attorney who at the time of her death had just started working for the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s office. She moved to Taos after the death of Jürisson. She also was a legal consultant for "Better Call Saul," the popular prequel to "Breaking Bad." Season 6, Episode 9 was dedicated to her, and sparked a renewed interest in her homicide. Clark Downs was also previously an assistant District Attorney in Valencia County and worked for the Pueblo of Isleta prior to moving to Taos.

As reported by The Paper. Downs Clark was was struck by Frank McAleer, 73, who slammed into the back of her Volvo with a 1999 Ford Expedition while she was stopped to make a left hand turn on US 64, west of Taos. She died at the scene. The County Sheriff at the time said it was presumed she was making a left turn into a doggy daycare to pick up her dog. Reports say McAleer was traveling at about 80 miles an hour when he struck her car. Reports say that he said that he did not see her brake lights. McAleer had not had a driver’s license since 2007, and it was not his vehicle. He is known to live primitively in the woods around Tres Piedras. 

McAleer was charged with vehicular homicide and other driving charges. The case has been moving slowly through the court system. He was released on his own recognizance, on house arrest, with a GPS tracker and a $10,000 unsecured bond to a Tres Piedras parcel of land.

The judge set the case for trial in December. According to court documents a plea is expected. In the meantime, a hearing is scheduled for next week to review the conditions of McAleer's release because he violated them in September by driving around Taos.


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