The Catalog of Tears
May 02, 2004
By Bill Whaley
Horse Fly updates Catalgoue of Tears and Catalogue of Tears, Part II from time to time to remind us of the pain and suffering of those who lost loved ones to the Grim Reaper Gang. The Horse Fly Staff has begun researching cases involving homicide and suicide in Taos County during the last twelve years. Initially, researcher, Ed Adams, thanks to a grant from The Horse Fly Institute, searched library records that included past issues of The Taos News. He also researched court records and Albuquerque Journal North records. Horse Fly acknowledges that the record below is necessarily incomplete and invites readers to submit more information about each case to firstname.lastname@example.org or horsefly@newmex..com.
21 June: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Jarrett Lee , 9, Angel Fire. Perpetrator: Robert Lewis, 49, Angel Fire. Lee with Lewis' son Kayl, age 8, rode on the flat-bed trailer driven by Lewis heading south on a camping trip on State Road 434 around Black Lake. Lewis, under the influence, lost control of the vehicle flipping the trailer over crushing Lee. No follow up.
19 July: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Viviano J. Herrera, 38, from Tooele, UtahTerese Annette Trujillo, 28, of Taos. P: Telesfor S. Lucero, 55, of Las Vegas (NM) Lucero, driving while intoxicated, hit and killed Herrea and Trujillo who were riding together on a motorcycle. The pair, who were driving around 80-85 mph heading north on State Road 68, reached the turn-off for 518 when Lucero pulled out in front of them. Open containers of alcohol found in Lucero's car; motorcycle a stolen vehicle. No follow up.
21 July: Vehicular Homicide. V: John D. Gomez, 26, of Taos Pueblo
P: Unknown. Gomez body found about an 1/8th of a mile from the south entrance to the Pueblo (on Pueblo land) at around 12:22 am, the victim of a hit and run. He was last seen at Allsup's around midnight. No witnesses. B.I.A. reopened the case in May 1994. Various rewards offered by family and F.B.I. for information. Never solved.
Sept: Suicide. V: Lloyd Hirsten, 48, of Excelsior, MN
Hirsten disappeared into the wilderness around Tres Piedras leaving his car containing weapons parked on the side of the road. Police suspect suicide after speaking with family members; he had mailed his personal valuables to them. Body never located.
Sept: Suicide V: Patrick Chase, 43, of Taos. Chase, a Taos loner who made smudge sticks for a living, disappeared leaving his vehicle at the rim of the Rio Grande gorge. No body ever found.
Oct: Homicide.V: Siegfried Dirnberger, 40, of Eagle Nest. P: Jaime Romero, of Taos. Dirnberger's body was found at the Santo Domingo Pueblo and his car was located at the Rio Grande Gorge. Suicide was initially suspected, but a Crimestopper's tip led to Romero's arrest, on 7 July 1991, for homicide. Robbery suspected motive because Dirnberger, according to his family in Louisiana, had recently left there after a visit carrying fifteen thousand dollars. No follow up.
19 Oct: Suicide. V: Richard C. Allen, no age given, of Taos
Allen, a silversmith and a senior member of Taos Search & Resuce, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound; he had been suffering a lengthy illness.
15 Nov: Suicide. V: Mike Finley, 45. Finley's body was found in the sage west of the gorge bridge. The report states that Finley committed suicide but it doesn't say how. He worked as a telephone technician in Taos.
3 Vehicular Homicide (2 DWI, 1 Hit & Run)
27 Jan: Homicides (7) V: Mary Ellen Sandoval, 19, Macario Gonzales, 19, Justin Gonzales, 6, Cheryl Rendon, 25, Ignacita Vasquez Sandoval, 36;
All 5 victims are from Dixon and Penasco areas. Also killed were Glen Huber, State Police Officer and Jerry Martinez, Rio Arriba County Sheriff Deputy. P: Ricky Abeyta, 29. Abeyta shot and killed the five plus two police officers in Chimayo. The slaughter commenced following a domestic dispute involving Ignacita Sandoval who wanted to end her relationship with Abeyta. The victims, apart from the two police officers, were related to Sandoval. 25 Nov. 1991 Abeyta found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder, on two counts of second-degree murder, and on one count of voluntary manslaughter. Google search finds Abeyta serving 4 consecutive life sentences plus 26 years in an Amarillo, Texas Dept. of Corrections Facility where he was moved after threats to his life occurred in New Mexico prison.
5 March: Suicide. V: Natalie Friedman, 56. Friedman shot herself in the head at the Koshari Inn where she had been staying for two months. Police don't know where she lived before her stay at the Inn. Friedman left two suicide notes: one in the room, one in her car.
4 July: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Renee Romero, 20. P: Jason A. Rael, 18. Rael arraigned on vehicular homicide charges in the death of his girlfriend (Romero) when he crashed the vehicle at around 1:45 am. Alcohol suspected as a contributing factor; Rael free on bond on 5 July.
No follow up.
15 July: Homicide. V: Paul Vigil, 17, of Ranchos de Taos. P: Carl R. Parish, 31, from Hanover, IN. Parish shot and killed Vigil with a single bullet through the heart from a 9mm pistol in a parking lot across the street from the bar in Arroyo Seco at around 11:30 pm. 30 July pleads not guilty claiming he acted in self-defense. Parish found guilty by Taos jury on 17 January 1992 of voluntary manslaughter and for carrying a concealed weapon. On 11 July 1994, the New Mexico State Supreme Court overturned the conviction saying that instructions to jury didn't place burden on State to prove Parish didn't act in self-defense but upheld conviction on concealed weapon charge. In a plea-bargain on 23 January 1995 Parish pleads no-contest to involuntary manslaughter; doesn't serve any more time. Parish spent roughly 3 1/2 years in prison.
1 Aug: Suicide. V: Karen Burns, 44, of Reinholds, PA
Burns discovered dead in Capulin Campground (between Taos and Angel Fire) with a gunshot wound in the chest; suicide note on the scene.
18 Oct: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Freddie Mondragon, 18, of Taos
P: Ronnie Elmer Pacheco, 28, of Taos. Pacheco charged with vehicular homicide following Mondragon's death on Paseo del Pueblo Sur; Pacheco refused a blood alcohol test at the scene. Trial set for April 1992 but no follow up.
18 Oct: Vehicular Homicide. V: Miguel Pena, of Santa Fe, a Mexican national Jesus Manuel Olivas Beltran, of Santa Fe, a Mexican national
P: Unknown. Fatal hit and run incident occurred in Ranchos when Pena and Beltran were walking across State Road 68 after leaving the El Padrino Bar at around 12:45 am. No witnesses; never solved.
3 Dec: Homicide/Suicide. V: Kathleen Shelton, 39, of Carson, Allen Shelton, 13, of Carson . P: Allen Shelton, 13, of Carson. Allen Shelton apparently killed his mother with a shotgun and then shot himself later. Their bodies were discovered outdoors and far apart in the Carson area ; Kathleen Shelton was six months pregnant at the time of her murder, and the fetus didn't survive. Police ask for more information. No follow up.
16 Dec: Suicide. V: Dennis Magnusen, 54, of Astoria OR
Magnusen jumped to his death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
26 Dec: Homicide. V: Ezequil Chavira, 31, of Chihuahua Mexico. P: Robert Miera, 19, of Taos. Two boys walking through a field near the Holiday Inn find Chavira's body that had apparently been there for several days; victim, who lived on Cruz Alta for the past couple years, had been stabbed several times. On 30 March 1992, Miera arrested in Las Cruces and charged with first-degree murder. Police investigator Manny Trujillo lauded for locating an eye-witness that led to Miera's arrest. Preliminary hearing date of 13 April 1992 postponed indefinitely; no follow up.
10 Homicides (4 separate incidents)
4 Vehicular Homicides (3 separate incidents-2 DWI, 1 Hit & Run)
24 April: Drug OD. V: Jamie Vargas-Flores, 20, of Taos .P: None/Unknown. Vargas-Flores body was discovered dumped on a porch in town. Vargas-Flores had recently returned from a trip to LA; drug overdose involving cocaine and heroin strongly suspected, but foul play not ruled out. No follow up.
23 May: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Michelle Montoya, 16. P: Gene Zamora, 18. High School sports star Zamora killed Montoya when she was thrown from a truck he drove and crashed; alcohol a contributing factor. Zamora indicted in February 1993 and pleaded guilty on 30 August 1993 to vehicular homicide. Zamora sentenced to three years remaining eligible to apply for reintegration program after 6 months.
30 May: Homicide/Accidental Suicide. V: Albert Martinez, 62, of Rodarte. Andrew Cassados, 29, of Rio Lucio. P: Andrew Cassados, 29, of Rio Lucio. Cassados broke into father-in-law Martinez' home around 1 a.m. and started pouring gasoline in the front room. Martinez interrupted and Cassados poured gas on Martinez, accidentally getting some on himself, and ignited the gas with a lighter. Cassados stood to be charged with murder until he himself died from burns a few days later. In June 1994 the families sue state police over the incident because Cassados had been jailed for domestic violence and his wife that night had called police more than once saying Cassados would kill everyone but they never responded.
9 June: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Wilbert Esquibel, 24. P: Manuel Lopez, 21, of Los Lunas. Lopez indicted on 23 February 1993 on a charge of vehicular homicide while driving under the influencce; Lopez truck, traveling fast, went off the road in Chamisal killing passenger Esquibel. On 20 October 1993, Lopez pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and received a sentence of 3 years in prison plus 2 years probation, but 1 year of the prison sentence was suspended, netting 2 years.
12 July: Homicide. V: Eileen Terry Hafner, 53, of Taos. P: Unknown
Hafner, owner of Coyote Pottery in Ranchos, killed in her Taos home at 114 Los Pandos when repeatedly struck with a blunt object. Antonio J. Archuleta, 51, who had the workshop on the premises where Hafner was killed, indicted on one count of second-degree murder on 24 March 1994; on 22 September 1994, Archuleta found not guilty by a Taos jury. Various family-related civil lawsuits followed in connection with Hafner's will from which Archuleta stood to benefit.
10 Aug: Homicide. V: Ollie Escarcida, 66, of Taos. P: Bobbi Montoya, 28, of Taos. The two Taosenos were camping out at Black Lake after gathering firewood all day. Montoya claimed self-defense after stabbing Escarcida to death around 10:30 pm saying he attacked her. Manslaughter charge against Montoya dropped on 29 September.
27 Aug: Suicide. V: Katherine Seed Kimbril, 50, of Taos (for 8 years)
Kimbril's body found in Rio Grande Gorge, an apparent suicide. She left a four-page letter in her '67 Ford Fairlane addressed to her mother concerning the disposition of her possessions along with various other documents connected with witchcraft and UFOs including a statement saying that she was a "UFO breeder."
31 Aug: Suicide. V: Matt Aurand, 20, of Dixon. Aurand disappeared and his truck was discovered at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. On 9 September kayakers find a body which authorities speculate may be Aurand's. No further information reported.
22 Sept: Homicide. V: Unknown. P: Unknown. A
Chamisal man killed in shooting at the Truchas overlook on State Road 76; his brother seriously injured. The dead man was shot once in upper chest.
No names given, investigation underway by state police. No follow up.
25 Sept: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Chris Romero, 19, of Taos. Amos Concha, 19, of Taos Pueblo. P: Corey Richardson, 25
Richardson killed passengers Romero and Concha while operating a stolen vehicle around 2:20 am when, driving at a high rate of speed on State Road 230, he skidded into another car. Alcohol deemed a factor in the accident.
Richardson pleaded guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide and received a sentence of six years with two years at Delancey Street.
5 Nov: Accidental Overdose/Suicide. V: Kathy Henderson, of Taos
Henderson found dead in her Las Colonias home of a likely accidental overdose of cocaine and prescription drugs. Henderson's son, 17 months old, was found alone in the house and he had been alone with his mother's dead body for about three days. Boy okay. Henderson had been depressed about the 25 September vehicular homicide incident involving Richardson because Richardson had been driving Henderson's stolen car at the time.
10 Dec: Suicide.V: Glen Hammond, Jr., 42. Hammond, distraught over an impending break-up in a relationship, shot himself in the head in Taos Canyon where he managed a convenience store at Sierra Village campground.
4 Homicides (but 22 Sept incident not officially a homicide)
4 Vehicular Homicides (3 separate incidents: 4 DWI)
6 Suicides (but 2 were from accidental overdose of drugs and 1 suicide committed, accidentally during the enactment of a homicide).
28 Jan: Homicide. V: Eleuterio Fernando Coca, 35, of Ranchos de Taos. P: Bonny Williams, 61, of Guadalupita. Coca shot and killed by his cousin, Williams, at her Mora County home. No follow up.
10 March: Overdose/Suicide. V: Joe Ralph Cordova, 40, of Chamisal. P: None/Unknown. Cordova found dead by a Sanco employee in Talpa about 4:30 am near a garbage dumpster at the intersection of Tafoya Road and Camino de Caballo. Cordova had been on "a binge" and his death is attributed to an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol. But his body had been moved to the site where it was found, and Johnny Sanchez, of Utah, faced charges "of disposing of an unclaimed human body" but not charges associated with Cordova's death. Family upset, but it appeared obvious that Cordova had accidentally killed himself with intoxicants. No follow up on Sanchez.
20 June: Homicide. V: Leonard T. Anaya, 27, of Taos. P: Tracee K. Anaya, 30, of Taos. Tracee Anaya stabbed and killed her husband Leonard around 9 am on a Sunday morning during a domestic dispute at their home on Calle de Oro. Tracee Anaya said she killed her husband in self-defense and she was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter by a Taos jury on 15 November.
13 July: Homicide. V: John Sparks, 40. P: Michael McGrath, 42
Sparks, one of three men "sitting around a campfire drinking," was shot and killed by McGrath in the wee hours of the night about a mile southeast of The Stakeout restaurant. Group had been drinking and target shooting all day and then argued during the night over "who was a better shot."
McGrath pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter on 29 August 1994. McGrath, a felon on parole, received a 7 1/2 year sentence.
18 July: Homicide. V: James Carroll Conklin, 44, itinerant. P: Unknown
Conklin, a mineral and gem dealer, disappeared around 7 July and his body was found ten days later in the Rio Grande River around Velarde. Conklin had borrowed an '83 Mercedes from a friend, and this car, burned out, was found on 7 July at the Rio Arriba/Taos County line. Conklin probably died from blunt trauma to head and robbery was considered the motive. 1993. Police were seeking Roy Alderson, 40, and Mark Mitchell, age unknown, for questioning in connection with the murder. Alderson was located and questioned in April 1995, and agreed to take a polygraph, then skipped town. No charges ever filed, and the case remains an unsolved murder.
6 Aug: Homicide. V: Chris Romero, 30, of Taos. P: Teena Trujillo, 20, of Taos. Romero was shot and killed at Trujillo's home on Upper Ranchitos. This case went from the D.A. Sammy Pacheco to the A.G. and all around the block. At one point, Teena Trujillo's mother, Frances, was tried for the murder claiming she shot Romero in self-defense, and the jury deadlocked. Not until 1998, 5 years after the murder, was Teena Trujillo tried.Teena Trujillo tried in Santa Fe in1998 and found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Chris Romero. She received three years probation.
22 Dec: Vehicular Homicide. V: Arnie Cisneros, of Questa. P: Unknown. Cisneros was run down and killed on State Road 522 in Questa by a hit and run driver. In November 1998 Cisneros' parents filed a civil rights complaint with the FBI to get case re-opened claiming it had been mishandled by local authorities. Cisneros was known as a troublemaker and family believes this fact prejudiced the investigation. FBI declined to get involved.
1 Vehicular Homicide (Hit & Run)
1 Suicide (apparently an accidental overdose)
2 Jan: Intoxication/Hypothermia. V: Richard "Boy" Lucero, 40
Foul play hadn't been ruled out when Lucero's body was found in Couse Pasture, but he died from hypothermia as a result of extremely high alcohol consumption as determined by the New Mexico State Medical Examiner.
22 April: Suicide. V: Robert Valdez, 41, of Dixon
Valdez committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Empty liquor bottles were found in the car parked on the side of the road in Vadito where the suicide occurred.
11 June: Suicide. V: Unknown, 21. A 21 year old man shot and killed himself around 7 pm; he had been experiencing severe medical problems, and his name was not released.
29 Sept: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Gloria Aguilar, 23, of Taos. P: Tammy Allen, 33, of Moriarty. Pedestrian Aguilar was run down and killed at around 11:30 pm while walking with friends on State Road 75 near Penasco; Allen pleads not guilty to vehicular manslaughter, drunk driving, and leaving the scene. Aguilar was pregnant and the episode caused a stillbirth, another 3rd degree felony. She faces the possibility of 8 years in prison. Allen pleaded guilty in an agreement to involuntary manslaughter and failure to stop, both 4th degree felonies, while the other charges were dropped. Allen received 18 months probation.
4 Oct: Homicide. V: Karon "Roni" Braunlich, 31, of Taos. P: Daniel R. Vigil, 18, of Llano Quemado. Braunlich's body was found under a juniper tree on the Weimer hillside. She is believed to have been killed on either the 4th or 5th of October. She had been raped, and then beaten to death with a rock. Jose Mondragon also charged initially but those charges were later dropped. Vigil pleaded no contest to second-degree murder charge and received 15 years along with 18 years for the rape and 18 months for tampering. The sentences run concurrently so he gets 18 years though he can be released in 9.
1 Vehicular Homicide (1 DWI)
3 Suicides (one suicide accidental)
17 Jan: Homicide. V: Duran DeLaRee, of Monte Vista CO. P: Fred Elinski, 20, of Del Norte CO. DeLaRee was shot point blank in the head in Tres Piedras on the side of U.S. 285. Elinski admits shooting the victim but claims self-defense; drugs were involved. Elinski convicted on 25 July of second-degree murder and gets 10 years with possibility of parole in 4 years. In October 1997 the conviction is overturned because evidence was admitted into court that should not have been admitted. On 2 June 1998, Elinski pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter and evidence tampering. He is sentenced to 7 1/2 years all of which was then suspended excluding time already served.
23 June: Missing/Homicide. V: Barbara Holik, 33, from Germany (living and working in Taos). Holik was last seen having a drink with friends at a restaurant near the plaza; foul play suspected. She lived on Rosarita and often walked into town about a half-mile distant. Her car in the driveway contained her handbag and ID. 23 June 1995: A blouse found in Ojo Caliente in April, 2003 may provide a clue to the case. Never solved.
2 July: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Crystal Sanchez, 18, of Ranchos de Taos. P: John R. Sanchez, 48. Crystal Sanchez was killed when the pick-up driven by her father plunged from a forest-service road about 1/2 mile west of State Road 518 in Talpa. Charges pending against John Sanchez include vehicular homicide while driving under the influence. On 28 May 1996, Sanchez was sentenced to 3 years all of which were suspended.
8 Aug: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Judith Cisneros, 45, of Questa
P: Robert Blanco, 22, of Questa. Cisneros was killed when her son's car hit her car from behind on State Road 522 in Questa at around 7 pm. Blanco charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence. Blanco pleaded guilty to homicide with motor vehicle, a 3rd degree felony. He received 5 years probation.
8 Aug: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Joe Cisneros, 26, of Questa. P: Andy Ortiz, 28, of Questa. Cisneros was killed on State Road 38 around midnight. Ortiz, the driver of the vehicle in which Cisneros rode, hit a guard rail ejecting and killing Cisneros who was hanging out the window of the car. Tom Trujillo, an investigator with the D.A. office, believes the pair were involved in criminal activity at the time. Alcohol involved. On 19 December Ortiz pleads not guilty. On 11 March 1997, the case was dismissed without being tried after a series of delays. Ortiz was indicted all over again on 1 April 1997, and on 23 January 1998 he pleaded guilty to tampering and leaving the scene, both 4th degree felonies, and to misdemeanor counts of reckless driving and drinking under the influence. The court sentences him to 3 years and suspends all 3 years and then places Ortiz on probation for 3 years with additional orders to perform 80 hours of community service , attend DWI school, and deposit a sample of his DNA.
10 Sept: Homicide. V: Tony Serna, 42, of Canon. P: Manuel Archuleta, 40, of Taos. Archuleta stabbed and killed Serna with an eight-inch kitchen knife around 6:40 pm in the parking lot behind Bent St. Serna was standing with Archuleta's wife, Ruth, at the time of the attack. The Archuleta's had been married for twenty-one years and were in the process of divorce. Serna apparently was not involved romantically with Ruth Archuleta and she believes he had only meant to kill her. Archuleta found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in August 1996 and sentenced on 27 September to 14 years, though the prosecution sought 22 years. Now ex-wife Ruth "shocked" by sentencing saying the sentence was like "giving permission to murder."
22 Sept: Suicide. V: Rueben Orlando Rubio, 34, of Alabama
Rubio left his '94 pick-up in the Pueblo Canyon with a note and committed suicide on a remote 11,000 ft. mountaintop using a gun.
8 Dec: Homicide/Suicide. V: Linda Vigil, 44, of Taos. Walter Vigil, 46, of Taos. P: Walter Vigil, 46, of Taos. Vigil shot and killed his wife and then himself on the front lawn of their Lower Ranchitos home. They had been married for twenty-four years and had four children but a divorce was pending.
4 Homicides (or 3 and 1 probable homicide in the Holik case)
3 Vehicular Homicides (all 3 DWIs)
28 March: Suicide. V: Elmer D. Parham, 75, of Fairview
Parham jumped from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to his death at around 12:30 pm.
15 Aug: Suicide.V: Alicia Lauritzen, 51. Lauritzen, a psychotherapist with two children, jumped to her death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
23 Aug: Suicide. V: Paul Martinez, 41. Martinez shot himself in the head.
7 Sept: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Gary Rael-Walker, 68, of Tijeras
P: Alan D. Johnson, 29, of Texas. Johnson, driving drunk, killed Walker on State Road 68 south of Taos. Johnson pleaded no contest. Victim's widow requests that Johnson be made, while on probation, to build and maintain a memorial to her husband, and also requests that Johnson be made to wear a sign stating the nature of his offense while standing outside of Taos High. On 19 January 1999, in a plea agreement accepted by the court, Johnson pleaded guilty to Homicide by Motor Vehicle and to driving under the influence and receives 3 years probation.
6 Oct: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Reuben Trujillo, 76. P: Tom E. Archuleta, Jr., 42. Archuleta killed passenger Trujillo when he drove off the road in El Prado into a tree. Archuleta, who had 3 prior DWIs, pleaded guilty and in January 1998 was sentenced to 7 years; he apologized to Trujillo's family saying that drinking had cost him his friend, his home, and his wife.
10 Oct: Homicide. V: Matthew Mark Cisneros, 6 months, of Questa
P: Marcos Mascarenas, 21, of Questa. Mascarenas charged in his infant's death resulting from "shaken baby syndrome." Mascarenas was found guilty on 15 May 1997 and sentenced to 12 years. However, on 7 September 2000, the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned the conviction citing the need to emphasize the distinction between civil negligence and criminal negligence.
22 Nov: Double Suicide. V: Charlie Sutherland, 21 and Kamala Sutherland, 21. The newlyweds jumped to their deaths from the Gorge Bridge; the bride suffered from bi-polar disorder.
1996 totals: 1 Homicide, 2 Vehicular Homicides (2 DWIs), 5 Suicides
26 March: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Michelle Valdez, 21, of El Rito
P: Dwayne Garcia, 18, of Ojo Caliente. The accident occurred on US 84 near El Rito around 7 pm when Garcia, under the influence, crossed the center line and crashed head-on with another vehicle killing Garcia's passenger Valdez. No follow up.
3 May: Homicide. V: Father Armando Martinez, 47, of Questa. P: Dennis N. Carabajal, of Cuba (NM). Carabajal, a convicted felon, killed Father Martinez, a retired priest, on State Road 4 in Valle Grande area in Sandoval County. Martinez had picked up the murderer who was hitchhiking around Jemez Springs. Martinez's body found in a ditch on the side of the road; he had been beaten to death. No follow up.
4 Aug: Suicide. V: Leslie Gonzales, 32, of Taos. Gonzales shot herself in the head at her Maestas Road home following a domestic dispute with her husband.
3 Sept: Suicide. V: Kenny Reynolds, 36, of Espanola. Reynolds shot himself in the chest on Taos Pueblo land.
16 Sept: Vehicular Homicide. V: Alfonso Martinez, of Tres Piedras. Two Mexican Nationals. P: Juan Fernandez Peras, of Mexico
Peras, driving a vehicle containing eleven undocumented Mexican nationals about 3 miles west of the Gorge Bridge on State Road 64, left his lane and crashed into Martinez vehicle, killing Martinez and two of the occupants of Peras' vehicle. Peras gets 3 years in a plea agreement on three counts of vehicular homicide raising protests and prompting the filing of civil suits by family.
13 Oct: Homicide. V: Steven Zotigh, 18, of Taos Pueblo. P: Viento Herrera, 20. Frederick Gaitan Jr., 21, of Ranchos de Taos, Richard Padilla, 16, of Denver. Zotigh was stabbed to death around April's Photo on Paseo del Pueblo Norte while taking a walk to the store with his thirteen year old cousin; the motives appeared to be money and hatred toward Native Americans. On 2 Oct 1998 Padilla pleads guilty of second-degree murder as part of a plea bargain agreement. He is sentenced as an adult and receives 16 1/2 years, 6 years of which is suspended so that he may seek treatment for drug and alcohol problems. His lawyer, Joe Shattuck, describes him as "an intelligent young man with a lot of potential." Thanks to New Mexico's Good Time Laws he'll be back on the streets in 4 years when he's 21. Paternoster expresses dismay. On 26 Oct 1998 Herrera plea bargains rather than go to trial for first-degree murder. On 26 Feb 1999, he gets 15 years with 5 suspended and, with Good Time credit and credit for time served, could be out in 3 1/2 years. On 13 Nov 1998 Gaitan found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder. On 12 April 1999 he is sentenced to 18 years (but will serve 15 maximum).
6 Nov: Homicide. V: Joseph Mermejo, 23, of Picuris Pueblo. P: Unknown. Mermejo, a Picuris Pueblo Police Officer, was strangled to death and his body was found under a bridge in Espanola. His twin brother, also a police officer for the pueblo, was the last person to see him when he dropped him off on the road following an argument. Never solved.
1997 totals: 3 Homicides, 4 Vehicular Homicides (in 2 incidents), 2 Suicides.
6 Jan: Vehicular Homicide/DWI. V: Paige Ladd, 23, of Dulce. P: David Lurbati, 24, of Taos. Lurbati and Ladd were riding on his motorcycle in Austin, TX when he crashed into a car killing Ladd. Lurbati, driving under the influence at the time of the accident, will faces charges and go to trial in Texas. No follow up.
27 Jan: Homicide. V: Samuel Mascarenas, 25, of Taos. P: Annette Gallegos, 31, of Taos. Inebriated Gallegos fatally shot Mascarenas in the head at a party at Cohn's Trailer Park in Los Cordovas between midnight and 1 am. On 12 August 1998 Gallegos declared guilty of involuntary manslaughter but verdict overturned because instructions not given to the jury regarding self-defense and defense of others. On 12 December 2001, DA Gallegos announces a retrial set for 12 February 2002. Gallegos found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on 14 Feb. 2002. On 16 September 2002, Gallegos sentenced to 18 months with 6 months suspended followed by a year's parole.
11 Nov: Dead Baby. V: Unknown. Newborn baby found dead in trash bag in garbage at the house of Lori Vigil, 21. Office of Medical Investigator determined the baby was born dead.
24 Nov: Homicide. V: Erik Sanchez, 18, of Espanola. P: David Sandoval, 23, of Taos. Luis Acosta, 19, of Taos. The pair apparently strangled Sanchez and threw him off the Gorge Bridge after carjacking the victim at gunpoint in Espanola; they wanted his car because the perpetrators were involved in a drug deal. Sandoval, previously convicted of child abuse, gets life in prison by pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against Acosta. He'll be in his 90s before he can be released. The DA sought the death penalty for Acosta and the case eventually ended up in the hands of the AG. On 21 September 2001, Acosta pleads "guilty but mentally ill" to first degree murder and gets life plus 71 years. He won't be eligible for parole for 65 years.
1 Vehicular Homicide (1 DWI)