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Catalogue of Tears, Part 2

April 15, 2008

By Staff Reports


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 or

1999 totals

Suicides: 3
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 2

January 7, 1999
Vicky Trujillo, 29, of Questa was missing since December 15, 1998. She was found dead in the Rio Grande Gorge by a Questa man fishing near Cerro. Her 1978 Chevy pick-up was parked nearby. Trujillo was considered suicidal at the time of her disappearance, though police are calling it “an unattended death.”

March 25, 1999
“Baby Angelica Maria,” newborn, was found dead off Chamisa Road partly gnawed on by animals with her unmbilical cord tied off indicating homicide. A crowd performed a burial on May 7, 1999 for “Baby Angelica Maria.” The crime was never solved.

August 6, 1999
The body of Walter Fields, 17, of Penasco was discovered hanging from a tree in Baca Park by a groundskeeper at 8:45 a.m.

August 17, 1999
Juniper Pino, 17, of Taos, a cousin of the above Walter Fields who was reportedly depressed about his suicide ten days earlier, ended her own life in Llano Quemado by taking an overdose of a friend’s anti-seizure medication.

September 2, 1999
Double Homicide
Clarissa Gonzales, 9, and her father Earl Gonzales, 51, of Questa were found dead by Gonzales’s girlfriend in their home. The girl was strangled with an electrical cord and the father was shot in the head apparently with his own gun, though the weapon was not at the scene. Gonzales’s vehicle had been stolen about one week prior to the murders and he had threatened several people who he had suspected of taking his vehicle. His vehicle was located about one month after his death, and two juveniles were charged with the theft. These were two of the juveniles Gonzales confronted about his stolen vehicle. There has been no evidence or motive to link these juveniles to the murder. The missing murder weapon is a .45 Ruger Blackhawk. The case remains unsolved.

September 11, 1999
Justin Sinclair, 18, of Taos was killed when Jedediah Lee, 19, of Taos, pushed Sinclair during a fight at a party and Sincair fell into the gorge. Underage drinking was involved in the incident. Lee was indicted on a single count of involuntary manslaughter to which he pleaded guilty and received an 18-month suspended sentence.

September 1999
Vehicular Homicide
Ralph Faust, 40, of Angel Fire, died when he was struck by a vehicle as he walked on the shoulder of State Road 434 between Angel Fire and Eagle Best early on Saturday. DA Paternoster said the vehicle hit Faust with such force that “it pulled him out of his shoes and socks.” Unsolved.

September 17, 1999
Vehicular Homicide
Estelle Romero, 44, of Mora, was killed by drunk driver Robert Rodney Lopez, 25, of Colorado, on State Road 518 at the Penasco turn-off. Lopez’s driver’s license had been revoked for previous DWI convictions. On Januray 18, 2000, the court accepted a plea agreement in which Lopez admits guilt to homicide by vehicle aggravated while driving under the influence and sentenced him to eight years in prison.

September 26, 1999
Homicide; Longmont, Colorado
Natalie Mirabal, 24, of Chamisal, was beaten and strangled to death by her husband Matthew Mirabal, originally of Chamisal, who then dumped her body in a remote area of Lefthand Canyon, leaving their 4-month-old daughter motherless. The coroner also reported that she had been decapitated. Matthew had also taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy on his wife that was due to expire a few days after the murder. Matthew was also apparently having an affair with his sister-in-law. It was an apparent copycat crime similar to then-recent killings of Denver-area transients who were all decapitated. The case was featured on Court TV’s “Forensic Files” because of its bizarre details including the Mirabals’ membership in a cult-like church called “Soul’s Arbor Tabernacle Revival” founded by Troy Hancock in Penasco, who later moved his congregation to Espanola, then to Colorado. The Mirabals followed the congregation to Colorado in 1996.

October 2, 1999
Chris Medina, 24, of Taos, was found dead from bullet wounds in the front seat of his car on Las Cruces Road near Spruce; a drug deal was involved. Andrew Martinez, 27, of Taos, was indicted on first degree murder in November, but then escaped from the Taos County Courthouse by simply walking away during a work detail on the Courthouse grounds, prompting a statewide manhunt…to be continued November 21, 1999.

November 21, 1999
Jonathan Weiss, 42, of Taos, was shot and killed in Taos Canyon by the above accused murderer and recently escaped prisoner Andrew Martinez, 27, of Taos. On February 8, 2001, Martinez pleaded guilty to both the Medina and Weiss murders in a plea-bargain that spared him his life. He will be eligible for parole in 37 years. By way of explanation for his actions, Martinez, described as having been a good student with no previous criminal record, blamed his addiction to crack cocaine. He said he owed Medina money for the drug, and he indicated he was smoking crack again when he shot Weiss. He said he escaped prison while raking leaves when the guards told him they would give him a head start.

2000 totals

Suicides: 3
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 1

January 7, 2000
Ricky Abeyta, 15, of Taos Pueblo, was beaten to death and his body found face down in a creek on Pueblo land. The crime was believed to have been gang-related. John Archuleta, 17, of Taos Pueblo, Lyle Padilla, 17, of Taos Pueblo, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on July 17, 2000, were sentenced as adults, and received ten years plus five years probation. An unnamed juvenile also confessed involvement, but no information was given on his punishment.

January 14, 2000
Dwight John Juers, 30, of Saint Paul, Minnesota, described as a loner and a wanderer, apparently jumped to death of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

February 3, 2000
Michael McCabe, 19, of Taos Pueblo, was found dead at the Pueblo of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

February 13, 2000
Jeremy Vigil, 15, of Llano Quemado was shot and killed by Orlando Torrez, 14, of Taos, with a stolen gun outside Vigil’s home. The pair had been suspects in a series of burglaries. Torrez, who attended the Casa de Corazon School for at-risk youth, was already on probation for assault with a deadly weapon. Torrez received two years in Springer at the New Mexico Boys School for violating probation with further charges pending. On November 30, 2001, a Taos grand jury indicted Torrez on a charge of manslaughter as a youthful offender, but sought adult punishment. Disposition of this case unknown. Torrez will go on to murder 19-year-old Danica Concha during a drive-by shooting on November 1, 2003.

June 19, 2000
Tomas Montoya, 40, a lawyer from Rio Rancho, jumped to his death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge at 10:40 a.m.

July 20, 2000
Double Homicide
Robert Miera, 26, and Jeremy Trujillo, 17, cousins, both of El Prado, were shot and killed by Tom Tollardo, Jr., 21, and Roselee Kisto, 23, both of Taos, around 4:00 a.m. in a trailer park off Rio Lucero Road. Tollardo was found guilty by a Taos jury of second-degree murder in the death of Trujillo, and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Miera, outraging the family of the deceased. DA Gallegos wanted first-degree murder verdicts in both cases. On July 5, 2001, Judge Peggy Nelson sentenced Tollardo to 23 years, declining to add time for aggravating circumstances. With good behavior, Tollardo can be out in 18 _ years. Kisto got 15 years after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.

August 25, 2000
Vehicular Homicide
Aaron Rodarte, 17, of Rodarte, was killed while a passenger in a vehicle driven by Gabriel J. Gonzales, 18, of Penasco. Gonzales rolled his car at the intersection of State Roads 75 & 76 near Penasco, killing Rodarte. Ganzales pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide aggravated while driving under the influence. Judge Peggy Nelson sentenced Gonzales to 6 years but suspended 5 years and 10 months of that, so in fact he served 2 months with work release followed by 5 years of supervised probation upon release. In addition, he must pay for Rodarte’s headstone, perform 500 hours of community service, and attend and complete the AA program.

2001 totals

Suicides: 1
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 5
Suspicious Deaths:1

February 24, 2001
Vehicular Homicide
Joe Gerald Maes, Jr., 42, of Costilla, was killed while a passenger in a vehicle driven by Steve Cortez, 37, of Costilla. Maes died when Cortez rolled a Chevy Blazer three times on State Road 196 near Costilla. Cortez’s blood alcohol content registered at .29 more than five hours after the crash. Cortez, with five prior DWIs, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while driving drunk. On April 7, 2002, Judge Peggy Nelson dismayed prosecutor Carlos Gutierrez when she sentenced Cortez to the six years he’d hoped for, but then suspended all except 18 months, imposing probation for the difference. Cortez’s family and residents of Costilla circulated petitions favoring treatment over prison time.

April 3, 2001
Vehicular Homicide
Shorey Ellen Gomez, 17, of Taos Pueblo, was killed while a passenger in a vehicle driven by Christopher Weathers, 26, of Taos, around 9:00 p.m. when a drunken Weathers flipped his vehicle on Paseo del Canon. On January 22, 2002, Weathers was sentenced to six years with four suspended, netting him two years in prison plus probation.

April 16, 2001
Edward Duran, 36, of Ranchos de Taos, was run down by an inebriated Paul Larry Tafoya, 31, of Chimayo, while Duran was sitting on his motorcycle on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. Tafoya, with a history of DWI and a revoked license, proceeded to drag Duran along the road some 165 feet, then fled the scene before being chased down by witnesses. In May, a grand jury indicted Tafoya on a first-degree murder charge accusing him with “acting with depraved indifference for human life.” Tafoya once worked for Duran’s business, but DA Gallegos said there was no evidence that Tafoya ran over Duran on purpose. On November 19, 2001, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the first-degree murder charge. Tafoya was sentenced to life in prison.

June 13, 2001
Jason Paul Vasquez, 19, of Penasco, was stabbed to death in a trailer park in Santa Fe by Fred Maestas of Santa Fe. Maestas claimed self-defense, arguing that Vasquez, a former Taos High sports star, along with his gang of friends, were pummeling Maestas. On March 21, 2002, Maestas was found not guilty of second-degree murder, or even of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter in the death of Vasquez.

July 5, 2001
Vehicular Homicide
Joe Henry Thomason, 66, of El Prado, while walking on Millicent Rogers Road on his way to the store for a newspaper around 8:40 a.m., was run over and killed by an intoxicated George C. Chavez, 49, of Taos. As of August 1, 2002, Chavez had yet to face trial to the consternation of Thomason’s widow, Susan. Chavez, in fact, skipped bail and fled to Tucson when he was supposed to be attending a substance abuse treatment program. Chavez was subsequently returned to custody in Taos. On September 20, 2002, Chavez receives four years, but will have to serve all four years only if DA Gallegos can convince Judge Nelson that the crime meets the definition of “serious violent offense.” Otherwise, he may be released in two years. Gallegos also voiced support for “truth in sentencing” and for stiffening penalties for DWI in connection with vehicular homicide. Thomason’s widow complains “I think the penalties for drunk driving a vehicular homicide are too low.”

July 22, 2001
Vehicular Homicide
Daniel Medina, of Taos, was run over and killed by his wife of 17 years, Brenda Medina, 37, after a domestic dispute outside their home on Adobe Road. Both were legally drunk. Brenda Medina took the Alford Plea, meaning she retained an avowal of innocence while admitting that a jury could have found her guilty as charged. Judge Peggy Nelson ordered Medina to serve 364 days probation with the Human Resources Development Association, and mandated that she undergo twice-weekly urinalysis, perform 48 hours of community service, and attend DWI school and AA meetings.

July 26, 2001
Nicole Medina, 18, of Taos, was shot and killed by her husband of two-months, Adam Vigil, 21, in their trailer home on Blueberry Hill Road at about 10:30 p.m. On August 22, 2002, Vigil pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received seven years in a plea agreement DA Gallegos entered into because “I wasn’t going to gamble on an acquittal” by trying the case as second-degree murder. The mother of the victim calls the agreement a “pitiful” example of justice. Vigil has since been released and is back in Taos.

October 3, 2001
Charles Smith, 37, of Santa Fe, disappeared, abandoning his rental car containing his wallet and keys at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Originally from Mississippi, Smith had lived and worked most recently in Santa Fe, though he had been in Taos for a while staying at motels. His father said he suffered from depression. On November 8, 2001, his body was discovered in the gorge by rafters.

October 27, 2001
Vehicular Homicide
Jeremy Samora, 23, of Taos Pueblo, was killed while a passenger in a vehicle driven by Jeremy Lujan, 24, of Taos Pueblo. An intoxicated Lujan, driving fast, flipped his vehicle at 4:00 a.m. on the Reservation’s middle road. Samora was not wearing a seat belt.

December, 2001
Suspicious Death
The skeletal remains of Mary West, no age given, of Arlington, Texas, were sought and found in Red River near a waste treatment plant and sent to Albuquerque for examination after David Patterson, 37, also of Arlington, Texas, admitted to authorities in Virginia that he buried his grandmother there. According to Patterson, West died in a Red River motel room while the two were vacationing. On August 7, 2002, DA Gallegos filed a dismissal of tampering charges against Patterson, saying that “pending further investigation, criminal charges may be re-filed at a later time.”

2002 totals

Suicides: 1
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 3

January 7, 2002
Vehicular Homicide
Donald Nelson, 55, of Carson, was killed while a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk Kevin Seiler, 40, also of Carson. Seiler ran off the road and flipped his vehicle in Carson around 10:45 p.m., killing Nelson. Neither man was wearing his seat belt and both were ejected. On July 25, 2002, the court accepts a plea agreement in which Seiler pleads guilty to homicide by vehicle but not to driving under the influence. He is sentenced to six years, but the court suspends all but one year and three months with credit for time served, followed by four years and nine months of probation.

February 7, 2002
Vehicular Homicide
James M. Cisneros, 35, of Questa was killed while a passenger in a vehicle driven by Benita Stable, 40, of Espanola. The intoxicated Stable caused a head-on collision fatal to Cisneros when she crossed the centerline on State Road 76 in Chimayo.

May 8, 2002
Diana Doris Sanchez, 43, of El Prado, was reportedly found dead in her home by her husband Phillip R. Lujan, 50. There was no blood found at the scene, but the victim died from blunt-force trauma. Lujan told the Sherrif’s Department that his wife came home drunk from a party and fell down the stairs. He said he picked her up and put her in a chair, but found she was dead in the morning. Their relationship was characterized by regular violence and extreme substance abuse. Sanchez died from a hematoma that could have been caused by a hard fall down the stairs, according to OMI. However, Sanchez sustained many other injuries from head to toe that could not have been caused by a simple fall down the stairs. Lujan later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in her death. On November 20, 2003, Lujan received an 18-month sentence with credit for 8-months served. Lujan expressed no remorse and said that he had no plans to quit drinking or to change his lifestyle. In an April 2003 HRDA assessment, Lujan was rated as a severe risk for alcohol and drug dependency, a high risk for violence, and a maximum risk for antisocial behavior.

July 9, 2002
Marioara Shand, 38, of Taos, was raped, stabbed 14 times, along with her throat slashed by Nathaniel Duran, 18, of Ranchos de Taos. Duran committed the crime the day before his 18th birthday. Shand recently rented the apartment she where was killed from Duran’s grandparents. Duran was found guilty on all three counts of first-degree murder, criminal sexual penetration, and tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to life plus 10 _ years.

July 14, 2002
LeAnne Martinez, 23, a single mother from Taos, was found stabbed to death with her throat slashed in her Chamisa Road home. Richard Sabino Fresquez, 23, of Taos, an acquaintance
of the victim, was spotted driving her Mustang and was finally apprehended in Indio, California after a six-day chase. Fresquez, who had recently served time for burglary, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life plus six years, though he could be eligible for parole in 36 years. Fresquez was then sentenced to an additional 27 years for rape and burglary—crimes Fresquez committed two months prior to the murder of Martinez.

September 29, 2002
Vehicular Homicide
Kary A. Smith, of Taos, was killed by Pedro Antillon, 17, a Mexcian national, when Antillon ran a red light at 70-80 mph at the intersection of Paseo del Canon and Paseo del Pueblo Sur. He was initially convicted of vehicular homicide, but is due for a new trial at the request of his defense attorney because of an error this attorney made during jury instruction.

October 2, 2002
Double Homicide-Suicide
Bernadine Flores, 32, of Taos, drowned herself and her two children in the Rio Grande in Pilar. The children were Kiana Flores, 4, and 16-month-old Martin Acosta. Cocaine was found in Flores’s car.

2003 totals

Suicides: 3
Undetermined/Suspicious: 2
Vehicle Deaths (No Homicide): 5
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 0
Other (Drug Overdose): 1

January 4, 2003
Vehicle Death
“Car crash ends grief-plagued life” was the headline the Taos News used to describe the death of Johnny Córdova Jr., 33, who was the driver at fault in a single-vehicle crash that occurred in Ranchitos in the early morning hours. Córdova Jr. missed a curve, sending his 1999 Pontiac airborne. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle which then rolled over him. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:35 a.m. His friend and passenger, Larry Martinez, sustained a broken arm in the wreck. Martinez was wearing his seatbelt. Seven years before, Córdova Jr.’s son, Johnny Córdova III, was killed in a domestic violence incident on San Juan Pueblo. Córdova Jr. left behind his girlfriend and their 7-month-old daughter, as well as a son and two other daughters. His father, Johnny Córdova Sr., is a former New Mexico State Police deputy chief, while his uncle, Dennis Córdova is a retired State Police drug agent. Another uncle, Joel Cordova, is a former Taos Police officer recently convicted on six out of 44 counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor.

March 7, 2003
At about 12:49 p.m., witnesses said Herson Vigil, 31, shot himself in the head while standing on the outside of the railing of an overlook on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and his body plummeted 620 feet into the Rio Grande River. OMI confirmed that Vigil’s initial cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head, though the firearm was not recovered. Due to adverse weather and river conditions, it took Taos Search and Rescue and State Police five hours to recover the body.

April 27, 2003
Mariana Augustini, 44, of Santa Fe and Vermont, was the second person in 2003 to commit suicide from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. A tourist taking photographs from the bridge spotted Augustini’s body lying about 150 feet down in the gorge at 7:30 a.m. The OMI investigator estimated Augustini had been dead about 12 hours. The Taos Volunteer Fire Department assisted by the Taos County Sheriff’s Department recovered the body in about 30 minutes. Augustini’s vehicle was found in the west parking lot and contained a suicide note. A bottle of water and prescription antidepressant drugs were found spilled in the middle of the bridge.

June 4, 2003
Susan Jayne Weiss, age not given, a Santa Fe comedienne, was last seen at 4 p.m. on this day near the bridge by park maintenance workers. Weiss’s brother called Central Communications to report that he had a letter from Weiss that indicated she was coming to Taos and might commit suicide from the bridge. Sheriff’s deputies and the Taos Volunteer Fire Department began their search on June 4th and tried again on June 6th with help from the staff of Native Sons Adventures. The Sheriff’s Department made a third unsuccessful attempt to locate Weiss by raft on June 12th. On June 20th, a fisherman discovered Weiss’s body about 2.5 miles south of the high bridge. The original trio of agencies that included the Volunteer Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, and staff of Native Sons Adventures, spent more than eight grueling hours to finally recover the body. This was the third suicide this year from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

June 6, 2003
Albert Trujillo, 19, was killed in front of his mother by a gunshot wound through his right eye on the porch of his Talpa home. Earl T. Romo, 16, pulled the trigger at about 5 a.m. after he had cocked and pointed a loaded gun at Trujillo while his mother stood next to him, pleading with Romo to put the gun away. There had been a verbal altercation between the two earlier that morning before Romo killed Trujillo with the modified .410 shotgun. Romo fled the scene on an ATV with his friend, Matt Vigil, and buried the weapon. Romo was taken to the Taos County Detention Center by his parents an hour later, and Vigil helped police recover the buried weapon. Romo claimed the gun went off accidentally. He was tried as a youthful offender and pleaded no contest to first degree murder on March 10, 2004. On June 25, 2004, Romo was sentenced to serve 15 years in the Department of Corrections, an adult facility. During the investigation it was discovered that Romo’s parents regularly used and trafficked drugs in front of Romo since he was a young child. Romo started using drugs himself when he was eleven, nearly died from a stab wound in 2001, and was an active gang member. During sentencing, Judge Michael Vigil, who is based in Santa Fe, commented, “The violence [in Taos] is horrendous for a community this size.”

June 16, 2003
Drug Overdose
Steve Rodarte, 35, was found dead in his home at 9:55 a.m. by three friends with whom he was partying the night before. The friends witnessed Rodarte ingest 5-6 Percocet pills before he drank some beer and passed out. The friends left, but returned in the morning to find him dead. He did not have a prescription for the pain medication.

July 24, 2003
Triple Homicide
Eric Tollardo, 22, Nathaniel Maestas, 14, and Alfredo Eagle Rael, 23, were all gunned down in the parking lot of the Mustang Gas Station in Ranchos de Taos at about while they sat inside a vehicle. Jason Perea, 26, parked his vehicle on the other side of the lot, ran over to the victims’ car, and opened fire with 19 shots, from firearms in both hands, into the vehicle at about 10:15 p.m. Tollardo was struck by nine bullets, while Maestas and Rael were each struck by two. 14-year-old Casssandra Martínez was also inside the vehicle and escaped without injury. Perea fled, but was later apprehended near Española. He pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder on January 12, 2004, and was sentenced to serve at least 41 years in prison. Maestas was the half-brother of Albert Trujillo, who was murdered six weeks earlier. Perea had been identified as a gang member by law enforcement as early as 1994. Tollardo was an active gang member at the time of his murder. Families of the victims have since filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the Mustang Gas Station because it was a known loitering area for gang members, and that the corporate owners failed to recognize, correct, and protect the plaintiffs from these dangerous conditions.

July 27, 2003
Vehicle Deaths
Derek Barnard, 35, and Fredrick James Janus, 41, both of Tucson, Arizona, died at the scene of a vehicle crash 10 miles south of the U.S. 64-U.S. 84/285 intersection in Tres Piedras at about 2:03 a.m. The vehicle lost control, left the roadway, and rolled, ejecting Barnard and James, as well as a third passenger who survived the ordeal. None of the men were wearing seatbelts and alcohol was not a factor in the crash.

July 28, 2003
Lorenzo Maestas, 16, was shot and killed in his Llano Quemado home at about 12:19 a.m. by his friend, Joseph M. Rodríguez Jr., 16, who was handling a stolen .38 Special revolver when the firearm discharged and struck Maestas in the face. Rodríguez fled the scene, but was later detained at his parent’s home. Rodríguez was charged as a juvenile and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on August 22, 2003. Rodríguez and his older brother Jonathon Rodríguez, 17, were members of the “South Side Locos” gang and admitted involvement in a series of burglaries that occurred over the summer. According to court records, Rodriguez currently has a bench warrant out for his arrest for failure to appear on recent traffic violations.

August 22, 2003
Suspicious Death
Ernest Moises Michael Miera, 32, of Taos, was killed by a gunshot at about 10:37 p.m. that witnesses claim was self-inflicted while Miera was “playing with a gun” during a party at Capulín Campground in Taos Canyon. Sheriff Charlie Martinez said that all but one of the party-goers, mostly ex-cons and citizens on probation, scattered after the shooting. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that this was a murder disguised as a suicide, and the case remains open. Miera left behind six children.

August 23, 2003
Vehicle Death
Filbert Vigil, age not given, died instantly at 4:05 p.m. in a traffic crash while riding his 1998 Harley Davidson motorcycle. The other vehicle involved, a 1997 Toyota Forerunner, driven by Judy M. Bergerson, 54, collided with Vigil’s motorcycle while she was southbound in the center turning lane in front of Quality Inn. Alcohol was not a factor and charges against Bergerson were eventually dismissed.

September 7, 2003
José Juan Zarazua-Alcantar, 22, was found dead in the passenger seat of a burning vehicle parked in the lot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 6:12 a.m. Firefighters discovered the body after extinguishing the fire. The State Fire Marshall concluded the fire was intentionally set in the passenger compartment of the 1979 Datsun. OMI reported that Alcantar was not yet dead when the fire started, however, he was not killed by the fire or the smoke. Alcantar’s cause of death was heroin intoxication, though he was not known to be a heroin user. Alcantar was last seen alive at 1:45 a.m. on a convenience store security camera video tape, and had been seen earlier that evening at the Sports Bar. The investigation resulted in the arrest of seven co-conspirators in the murder: Michelle Martínez, 33, Steve “Joker” Tollardo, 30, Luis “Tablas” Trujillo, 32, Lawrence “Pifas” Gallegos, 24, Elías “Baby” Romero, 51, Ivan “Diablo” Romero, 28, and Jaime Romero, 33, who had already served time for a previous second-degree murder conviction, as well as for battery and disarming of a police officer.

Alcantar was injected with a lethal dose of heroin, placed in a car and taken to the church parking lot where the car was set on fire. Martínez pleaded guilty to first-degree felony conspiracy to commit murder, admitting that she injected Alcantar with the lethal dose of heroin. Martínez was sentenced to 15 years in prison as part of a plea agreement in exchange for future testimony against the other defendants. She stated that her alleged co-conspirators beat Alcantar during a drug-related argument. After he was injected with a lethal dose of heroin, the group placed him in his car and drove him to the church parking lot, where they set the vehicle on fire.

Gallegos was indicted for first-degree murder, aggravated arson, and kidnapping, as well as conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Elias Romero was charged with murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree. His son, Ivan Romero, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree and criminal solicitation. Jaime Romero was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Tollardo and Trujillo were indicted first-degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated arson, and conspiracy to commit all three crimes. The six men await trial.

While in a Santa Fe jail awaiting trial, Gallegos was accused of beating a fellow prisoner to death, and was charged with an open count of murder. This charge was dismissed pending further investigation. Tollardo and Trujillo were also later charged with felony counts of retaliation against witnesses in the case, though the charges were dropped because the victims disappeared. The D.A. said the victims may be wanted for crimes in other states and that their credibility was questionable.

After being released on bond, Jaime Romero was indicted again on July 21, 2005 on charges of aggravated DWI (second offense), battery on a peace officer, and disorderly conduct. He was convicted on the DWI.

October 8, 2003
Suspicious Death
Darci D. Miller, 33, of Ratón, was found dead by hunters on Taos Pueblo. An autopsy report stated that she probably died of hypothermia. Miller was reported missing by her family, and was last seen on September 29, 2003. Her vehicle was found in a remote area near Taos on October 1, 2003, although officials said the vehicle was not parked at that location on September 30th. Investigators are awaiting toxicology reports.

November 1, 2003
Danica Concha, 19, was shot and killed and three others were injured when Orlando Tórrez, 18, and Alfredo Sánchez, 20, allegedly opened fire in a drive-by shooting of a mobile home on State Road 68 south of the Taos Egg Farm at about 4:30 a.m. At least 12 rounds were fired into the mobile home with a high-powered rifle and shotgun. According to Sheriff Charlie Martinez, Tórrez and Sánchez were forced to leave a party after an altercation that took place Halloween night at the mobile home, and that seven to nine shots were fired at Tórrez’s 1995 Grand Prix as he left. Sheriff’s deputies apparently made on traffic stop on the vehicle after they left the party, but did not follow up on why there may have been bullet holes in the car. Those in attendance at the party were apparently members of the Barrio Small Town gang. Sánchez confessed to firing the shotgun, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on August 23, 2004, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison with nine years suspended. Tórrez maintained that he committed the crime in self-defense. On October 29, 2004, Tórrez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Tórrez was also accused of shooting and killing his best friend and fellow gang member, Jeremy Vigil, in February of 2000 during an incident that Tórrez called an accident. Danica’s father, Ernest Concha is pursuing civil litigation against Taos County and the Sheriff’s Department as a result of the incident.

November 16, 2003
ATV Death
Matthew Roy Rivera, 9, was killed at about 3:30 p.m. on the La Serna Land Grant in Llano Quemado when the ATV he was riding on with his father hit a sagebrush and tilted up, causing Rivera to fall off, and the ATV to roll over him. Rivera died at Holy Cross Hospital from a head injury. He was not wearing a helmet. An unprecedented 10 ATV riders died in New Mexico in 2002. Legislation is pending for stricter laws surrounding ATV use. Rivera’s father did not break any laws during the incident.

2004 totalss

Homicides: 5
Suicides: 4
Undetermined/Suspicious: 2
Vehicle Deaths (No Homicide): 10
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 3
Other (Exposure): 1

January 26, 2004
Masami Brown, 16, died after surviving in a Santa Fe hospital on life support for two days from a self-inflicted gunshot wound sustained on the night of January 24, 2004.

February 25, 2004
Suspicious Death
Rory DiPalma, 25, was found dead in his vehicle by a fisherman in the Rio Pueblo Gorge off State Road 570. He had been missing since December 3, 2003 when he failed to meet friends at the Alley Cantina after a work-related party at the San Geronimo Lodge. Officials later found that DiPalma had suffered blunt-force trauma to the head.

April 15, 2004
The bodies of Elizabeth Arellano, 46, and Clifford Casías, 42, were found in their Questa home by a third person who was at the home that evening who had left for two hours and returned to find the couple dead on the couch. Investigators believe that Casías shot Arellano and then turned the small-calibre rifle on himself.

April 16, 2004
Vehicle Death
Christine Benavídez, 42, of Taos, died when her car careened off State Road 68 and plunged 87 feet into the Rio Grande River, four miles south of Pilar. Kayakers and rafters repeatedly attempted to rescue Benavídez, but could not free her from her Ford Taurus that had submerged in the icy waters.

April 27, 2004
Frank Lovato Jr., 18, shot himself while sitting in the back seat of a car following a party on Blueberry Hill.

May 9, 2004
Triple Homicide
Eileen Esquibel, 37, David Esquibel, 37, and Andronica Gonzales, 13, were found dead in their Peñasco home after what was thought to be a tragic house fire. The autopsy results showed that Eileen Esquibel and her daughter Andronica died of blunt force trauma, and that David Esquibel had six potentially fatal stab wounds to the chest, though he died from smoke inhalation. Alcohol abuse and domestic violence had plagued the family prior to this deadly incident. The investigation remains open since it is unclear exactly what happened that day.

June 1, 2004
Double Vehicular Homicide
Two Colorado residents, Leslie Walker, 59, and Timothy Serles, 41, were killed while driving their Harley Davidson motorcycles near Red River when Gerald Bailón, 15 of Questa, crossed the center line as he drove around a curve and struck Walker’s motorcycle. Serles laid down his bike in an attempt to avoid collision, and later died from his injuries. Manslaughter charges were brought against Bailón as a result of the incident, but were later dismissed. He pleaded no contest to careless driving and driving on the wrong side of the roadway. Bailon is currently awaiting trial for charges of burglary, larceny, and receiving stolen property for an unrelated September 2006 incident.

June 5, 2004
Vehicular Homicide
Roberta Lerma, 53, was killed in a head-on collision with Robert C. Faller’s, 56, pickup truck near Bobcat Pass just outside Red River. Faller pleaded guilty to DWI and Vehicular Homicide and was sentenced to 14 _ years in prison with three years suspended. Lerma’s sister and three girls between the ages of 7 and 11 were also severely injured in the crash.

June 14, 2004
Vehicle Death
Geoff Bryce, 57, died of injuries sustained when his Chevy S-10, traveling west on U.S. 64, was struck on the driver’s side by a tractor-trailer driven by Seth Dolph at the “old blinking light” intersection. The traffic light was malfunctioning (flashing) at the time of the crash: flashing red for Bryce, and flashing yellow for Dolph. Alcohol was not a factor in the crash and Bryce was wearing his seatbelt.

July 30, 2004
Double Vehicle Death
Ian Hoyer, 18, and Edel Magallanez, 20, were both killed when Magallanez, of Llano Quemado, pulled onto State Road 68 from Cuchilla Road in his white Olds Bravada at a high rate of speed and passed a motorcycle and a car in a no passing zone. Several cars pulled over to avoid collision, but Hoyer, of Pilar, was unable to pull his older SUV out of the way fast enough before they collided head-on.

August 5, 2004
Suspicious Vehicle Death
Robert Padilla, 52, of San Cristóbal, was found dead by a passerby on the side of State Road 378 near Cerro. Preliminary investigations determined that Padilla was struck by a vehicle sometime between 10:30 p.m. on August 4th and 3:30 a.m. on August 5th, and the vehicle left the scene. The investigation remains open.

August 7, 2004
Marc Davka de Groot, 45, who had been a resident of Taos for about a year, was found dead in his vehicle parked in Taos Plaza, apparently of suicide. Relatives said de Groot had a history of depression. He allegedly purchased a 9mm handgun the day before his death.

August 15, 2004
Vehicle Death
The body of Michael Pacheco, 17, was discovered by an 11-year-old boy passing by a canal on Paseo del Pueblo Sur, near Valerio Road in Ranchos de Taos. The canal was overgrown with vegetation that prevented Pacheco’s 1991 Honda CRX from being seen from the road. Skidmarks indicated that Pacheco was traveling north when it left the roadway, and landed on its roof.

September 7, 2004
Vehicle Death
Tate Turner, 23, died at the scene of a one-vehicle accident while he was asleep in the back seat of a Jeep Cherokee driven by Brian Moore, 29. Turner, a Colorado construction worker, was thrown from the vehicle after Moore swerved to miss hitting an elk. Moore had a warrant for failure to pay a speeding ticket and officials suspected speed was a factor in the crash. He pleaded no contest to careless driving.

September 12, 2004
Destin Romero Mondragon, 2 days old, died after his mother, Teresina Romero, gave birth to him prematurely. Destin’s mother was beaten with nunchucks three days earlier by her boyfriend, Jeremy Mondragon, 29. On April 27, 2005, Mondragon was indicted on a first-degree felony charge of child abuse resulting in death after autopsy reports showed the baby’s death was caused by trauma to the mother. He was sentenced to three years in prison after a plea agreement reduced the charge to a third-degree felony of voluntary manslaughter. Mondragon has a record of domestic violence dating back to 2001, and this was the third violent domestic violence incident this year against Romero. Mondragon pleaded guilty in the first incident, but charges were never filed by the District Attorney’s office for the second incident. On November 4, 2004, two months after the Destin’s death, Mondragon had to be subdued by a police officer’s Taser after he allegedly stabbed his father, his uncle, and then himself in the abdomen. Romero’s statements in court vary greatly from statements collected during the original investigations, as she has since made attempts to take the blame for the incidents. She allegedly married Mondragon May 7, 2005.

September 13, 2004
Vehicle Death
Steve Brito, 45, was killed when his Ford Bronco went off the road on State Road 68 south of the horseshoe curve. There was no evidence that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

October 16, 2004
Double Vehicle Death
Susan H. Tighe, 55, and Ramón Sánchez, 43, died of injuries received during a crash at the intersection of Gusdorf and Paseo del Cañón. An 85-year-old woman traveling north on Gusdorf ran the stop sign at 60 mph, and broadsided the vehicle being driven by Sánchez.

December 22, 2004
Death from Exposure
Cristy Levet, 44, whose last known address was in Questa, was found frozen to death in a field about _ mile west of the Sonic Drive-in. It is believed she walked out of her hotel room that she was sharing with her boyfriend at Days Inn, clad only in a T-shirt and panties. A Conoco station surveillance camera filmed her at 6:11 a.m. as she ran down State Road 68. Levet’s boyfriend reported she was delusional, and police along with Taos Search and Rescue were unable to locate her until December 23, when her body was found just after 10 a.m. There were no outward signs of trauma or anything else suspicious about the death.

2005 totals

Suicides: 9
Undetermined/Suspicious: 2
Vehicle Deaths (No Homicide): 4
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 2

January 30, 2005
Vehicle Death
A 62-year-old Texas woman was killed in a crash on snowy and icy roads on State Road 285 north of Ojo Caliente. She was a passenger in the 2002 Suburban when it was traveling past a previous rollover accident. An oncoming tractor-trailer lost control and went into a broadside skid, hitting the suburban and killing the passenger.

March 18, 2005
Michael Spinks, 34, of Bernalillo was seen jumping off the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge by a woman who reported it to authorities. Rescuers spent two hours recovering the body.

March 18, 2005
The body of Steven Sauer, 30, of San Cristóbal, was discovered on the west side of the river below the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge just after rescuers left the scene of the recovery of Michael Spinks. It was believed that Sauer also jumped from the bridge. The two deaths are unrelated.

March 20, 2005
State Police hired local rafting guides from Los Rios River Runners helped retrieve the body of Naia (Ava Lauren Sandrock), 37, a Santa Fe woman who had been missing since February 23, 2005, when her car was found at the Rio Grande Gorge rest area. Her body was found jammed on a rock in the middle of the river just south of the bridge by the rafting guides March 19th while leading a tour down the river. The rafting party stopped and secured the body to the shore before continuing down the river and reporting the find once they reached their takeout point in Pilar. The river company had been called to retrieve so many bodies in the gorge recently, that they couldn’t find any volunteers to help police retrieve Naia. The Taos Volunteer Fire Department also assisted in the retrieval.

May 21, 2005
Vehicular Homicide
Nolan Prichard, 7, was killed in car crash in which his father, Christopher Prichard, was the driver at fault. Christopher had been drinking at Bull O’ The Woods Tavern in Red River before he rolled the 1966 Jeep in which Nolan and his sister Olivia were passengers at 5:30 p.m. Christopher and Olivia were thrown clear from the vehicle. Nolan was wearing the only seatbelt available in the Jeep. Christopher and Olivia were treated and released from Holy Cross Hospital. Christopher Prichard pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to three years in prison. Both he and Nolan’s mother admitted to struggling with alcoholism.

June 5 or 6, 2005
Susanne Backus, 45, of Washington state, was strangled and dumped 50 yards down a mountainside near the Colfax-Taos County border in Taos Canyon, bound tightly with rope to a two-wheeled hand cart, leading investigators to believe she was killed elsewhere and her body later dumped there. Investigators suspected her boyfriend, Sidney Charles Randall, 43, killed Backus. They had been living together for about a week at a residence off State Road 150. Randall had a history of domestic violence and Backus had previously taken out a restraining order against Randall. Significant evidence was found at their residence implicating Randall in the murder, as well as security tapes from Lowe’s in Española showing a man resembling Randall purchasing the two-wheel handcart. Randall fled New Mexico and was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Washington state one day after officials here called for a nationwide search for Randall. Randall was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. Randall pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and tampering with evidence, since the prosecution could not prove the pre-meditated state required to secure the first-degree murder conviction. He was convicted to 16 _ years in prison.

June 19, 2005
According to witnesses Anthony Padilla-Hutt, 18, of Taos, sped west on U.S. 64 in his 1989 Ford pickup, veered off the highway at the northeast Gorge Bridge parking lot, nearly striking tourists, and broke through the chain link fence near the canyon rim, apparently accelerating as he approached the edge. The truck plunged 240 feet into the canyon before coming to rest on a ledge. Padilla-Hutt was dead at the scene. The recovery of his body caused a delayed response by firefighters to a fire in Carson Estates due to the closing of the bridge. An unoccupied trailer was destroyed in the blaze.

July 13, 2005
Far Flung Adventures river rafting company discovered the body of Steve Gavula, 56, who was believed to have committed suicide from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge the previous day. Gavula’s white SUV was found parked on the west end of the bridge. Sheriff’s deputies along with the members of the rafting company and an OMI investigator recovered the body.

July 14, 2005
Vehicular Homicide
Levi Salazar, 24, was killed while riding in a car driven by Amanda Martinez, 26, that rolled over on State Road 518 near mile marker 66. Martinez was driving under the influence at the time of the crash and was charged with homicide by vehicle, as well as causing great bodily harm by vehicle for injuring another passenger in the crash. Another passenger, Dominic Romero of Brighton, Colorado, was charged with tampering with evidence since tried to throw three 12-pack beer boxes over a fence at the crash scene, but his case was later dismissed. Martínez is scheduled for trial on March 5, 2007.

July 28, 2005
Juana Valenquela, 39, was shot to death outside her home in Vigil’s Trailer Park on Camino de la Merced by her boyfriend, Augustine Vela, 48. Vela then turned the gun on himself. They were both found dead at the scene. There was no history of domestic violence or drug abuse.

August 13, 2005
A Leadville, Colorado man believed to be about 25-years-old was the sixth person this year to commit suicide from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The recovery effort was delayed due to heavy rain. The eight-hour long operation resumed the next day and two firefighters had to be treated for extreme exhaustion.

September 10, 2005
Suspicious Vehicle Death
Victoria Lee Byars, 47, of Questa died of injuries sustained in a “automobile incident” on September 4, 2005. Between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Byars was riding in a van driven by her boyfriend, Brandon Bailón, 35, when she fell out of the vehicle on State Road 522 near mile marker 19, sustaining massive head injuries. Bailón claimed Byars jumped from the van, but Bailón did not seek medical attention for Byars until he was found with Byars by her family in the van outside a residence off of U.S. 64 hours later. Bailón allegedly tossed a bag of cocaine out of his van on the way to the hospital. Bailón’s sister-in-law, Isabel Gómez, was in the van on the way to the hospital and witnessed Bailón toss the cocaine. Bailón was charged with trafficking cocaine and tampering with evidence, but the charges were later dismissed due to a prosecutorial error. Bailón awaits trial for a third-degree felony charge relating to an accident involving death for driving the vehicle involved in her death and failing to stop or remain at the scene. Bailón is also charged with a fourth-degree felony of tampering with evidence for allegedly cleaning the blood and other evidence from inside the van after the incident.

September 11, 2005
Kennedy Kowalczyk, 32, was the seventh suicide victim to plummet to his death off the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge this year. He left a suicide note at his home that was found by friends late on the night of September 10th. His car was found hours later at the rest area near the bridge. A State Police helicopter was used to recover the body which was located submerged in the Rio Grande about 100 yards away from the bridge.

September 26, 2005
Suspicious Death
Betty J. Parsons, 79, of Cloudcroft was found dead in a mountainous area of Taos Pueblo. She had been reported missing more than a week earlier, last seen leaving her doctor’s office in Alamagordo and stating she was gong home to unpack her groceries. Searchers with the Taos Pueblo “wilderness patrol” located Parsons white Toyota Camry on the Pueblo, not far from where her body was found. Upon searching the vehicle, authorities found her groceries still inside. An autopsy confirmed that there was no evidence of violent trauma to the body of Parsons, however, the FBI is still classifying the death of Parsons as suspicious.

October 9, 2005
Vehicle Death
Javier Trujillo, 26, died when the truck he was a passenger in went off the road on County Road B007 and 250 feet down a cliff into the Rio Grande Gorge at about 8 p.m. near Arroyo Hondo. The driver of the pickup, Frank Martínez, 27, and Javier’s brother, Raymundo Trujillo, 24, were injured and airlifted to Holy Cross Hospital. Authorities said the crash appeared to have been alcohol-related. Martinez was charged with Vehicular Homicide and for causing great bodily harm by vehicle, however, according to court records, the prosecution failed to appear and the charges were dismissed.

October 15, 2005
Missing Person
Harvey Fernández, 31, of Peñasco, was last seen on this day visiting residences in the Peñasco-Vadito area, and has been missing ever since. State Police believe his disappearance is suspicious because those interviewed about his whereabouts “clam up” as soon as Fernández’s name is mentioned.

November 23, 2005
Vehicle Death
John Maestas, 32, of Taos, died from injuries he sustained when the vehicle in which he was riding ran off the road and down a rocky embankment. His fiancé, Tona Novaco, 23, was driving the 2003 Chevy SUV with a suspended license when she lost control of the vehicle and skidded off the roadway. Novaco awaits trial on misdemeanor counts of driving with a suspended license and careless driving. Maestas’s family later came forward to say that Maestas was a victim of domestic violence, and that his girlfriend had become increasingly violent with him in the days leading up to the accident. They stated Maestas had made two trips to the emergency room the month before after she punched him in the face while he was driving, and then the next day for throwing a hammer at him during an argument. Novaco has a previous conviction for aggravated battery from a Santa Fe court in 2001.

December 27, 2005
Myron Bordeaux, 58, of Oklahoma City, was last seen on December 4th when he walked away from a private treatment center in Taos. He was found on December 27th by a rancher checking on his cattle on private land off Blueberry Hill Road, about one mile south of the treatment center. Investigators believe Bordeaux died of apparent suicide and had been dead a long time before the body was discovered.

2006 totals

Suicides: 2
Undetermined/Suspicious: 1
Vehicle Deaths (No Homicide): 11
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 3

January 1, 2006 / January 5, 2006
Double Homicide-Suicide
Peggy French, 52, and Joe Hoar, 57, of Taos, were shot to death in their bed by Peggy’s son, Caleb French, 20. A massive manhunt for French ensued during the next few days before he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in an outbuilding on his father’s property. Caleb French was described as paranoid schizophrenic and was not taking his medications. He also had a history of hard-core drug abuse since his early teens. On December 6, 2005, Caleb purchased a Romanian CA1 AK assault rifle from a Taos-area gun shop that matched the caliber of the murder weapon. Investigators also found numerous other guns in Caleb’s truck and Hoar’s home.

January 23, 2006
Vehicular Homicide
Anita Pacheco, 22, of Costilla, was killed after being partially ejected in an 11:30 p.m. car crash in Taos Canyon. Pacheco was one of five passengers in a 2002 Mercedes driven by Eric Cebada, 19. The other four passengers were injured, but survived the crash. Cebada was traveling at a high rate of speed when his vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree. Cebada and the passengers left the scene after the crash, and left Pacheco’s body lying dead partially outside the car. None of the passengers were wearing seat belts. A large amount of alcohol was found in the vehicle, as well as a marijuana pipe. Cebada was convicted on third-degree felony charges of homicide by vehicle and two counts of causing great bodily harm by vehicle. The charges of leaving the scene of an accident, as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and reckless driving, were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. Cebada was sentenced to six years in prison.

February 15, 2006
Vehicle Death
Nichole Sophia Martínez, 18, of Arroyo Hondo, was killed in a single-car crash at about 2:02 a.m. on State Road 522 in Arroyo Hondo. No other details about the crash were available.

March 9, 2006
Vehicle Death
Denison Tafoya, 36, of Ranchos de Taos, was killed on State Road 230 at about 10:10 a.m. when she lost control of her 2002 BMW while trying to pass a truck and trailer driven by her husband. She struck her husband’s truck and her vehicle overturned six or seven times, causing her to be ejected from the vehicle. Her husband’s vehicle also overturned in the crash, but he was not injured. Alcohol was not a factor in the accident. Tafoya was a former DJ for KKIT.

June 17, 2006
Vehicle Death
Johnny Anthony Lucero, 17, of Llano Largo, died in a single-vehicle crash at 2:25 a.m. on State Road 75 in Dixon. It appeared that Lucero was ejected from his 2001 Pontiac Trans Am which came to rest on its side off the roadway. A passenger in the vehicle was treated for injuries. Seat belts were not worn and alcohol was a factor in the crash.

July 3, 2006
Vehicle Death
Jay Allen Tuft, no age given, of Angel Fire, died in a single-vehicle crash at about 5:30 p.m. in Taos Canyon after he attempted to pass in a no-passing zone. He swerved to avoid a head-on crash and lost control of his 2005 Ford truck which rolled at least four times. Tuft was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected during the crash.

July 5, 2006
Suspicious Death
A Caucasian Male, age 50, was found dead by a Photoworks employee at 8:30 a.m. in a driveway along Paseo del Pueblo Sur. The man was known to be a transient. There were no immediate signs of foul play at the scene.

July 26, 2006
Rafting guides found the body of Robert Keenan, 44, of Taos in the Rio Grande near the Quartzite Recreation Site with a gunshot wound to the head. Investigators ruled that the wound was self-inflicted.

July 29, 2006
Double Vehicle Death
John Kunesh, 67, and Joann “Denise” Kunesh, 63, of Red River, were killed when their 2003 Subaru wagon, driven by John, traveled into the opposite lane on State Road 522 north of San Cristóbal, crashing head-on into a 2004 Dodge 2500 pick-up truck carrying five people. John died at the scene of the 4:30 p.m. crash, and Denise died later after being airlifted to the hospital. The five people in the truck were treated and released for minor injuries.

August 15, 2006
Vehicle Death
Jeffrey Brown, 47, of Dixon, died after driving his vehicle through a flooded area of State Road 75. The water swept his car down an eight-foot embankment and into an overflowing arroyo. Debris smashed into the car, breaking the windows. A passenger was able to escape from the vehicle, however, Brown, a large man, was unable to open the doors and get away. One of the rescuers on scene was Brown’s half-brother who found him drowned inside the vehicle.

August 24, 2006
Vehicular Homicide
Albert Pacheco, 45, died when he was struck by a vehicle while walking along NM 240 at night. The driver of the vehicle, Louisa Sánchez, 19, was charged with vehicular homicide because her blood-alcohol level was .17. Sánchez stated that she did not see Pacheco until the last second when he stumbled out in the path of her vehicle. Unable to locate court record of the incident.

GAP in available information: no microfilm yet and taosnews online started 11/02/2006

October 6, 2006
Vehicle Death
Brandon Smallcanyon, 23, was killed at 5:45 p.m. on Los Córdovas Road when the 2000 Ford truck he was driving left the roadway and overturned. Smallcanyon’s mother and another passenger were riding in the truck, begging him to slow down just before the crash. According to his mother, Smallcanyon had consumed a six-pack of a Smirnoff alcoholic beverage just before the crash. The two passengers were wearing their seat belts—Smallcanyon was not, and was ejected from the vehicle.

October 24, 2006
Vehicular Homicide
Antonia Miera, 16, was killed after being run over by her ex-boyfriend, Arturo Mondragón, 23, during a domestic dispute shortly before midnight in the parking lot of Hacienda Inn. Mondragón awaits trial on charges of vehicular homicide and tampering with evidence. He had been placed on probation the week before for a drug violation, and had a pending domestic violence charge. Mondragón was legally drunk during the incident and allegedly had 4.67 grams of marijuana in “distibutable quantities” in his possession.

November 28, 2006
Double Vehicle Death
Connie Roybal, 40, and Ernest Roybal, 43, both of Chamisal, died at the scene of injuries sustained after their vehicle was struck by a semi-trailer in Dixon at the intersection of NM 380 and 75. They were attempting to make a U-turn and pulled in front of the semi-trailer which struck their vehicle.

December 26, 2006
Vehicle Death
Paul Arriaga, 51, of Black Lake, was killed at the scene of a two-vehicle crash at 2:39 p.m. on NM 434 in Angel Fire. Arriaga was attempting to pass a vehicle in a no-passing zone when he struck a Ford Explorer head-on. Investigators suspected alcohol was a factor in the crash. The driver of the Explorer was treated for injuries and later released.

*************Through March 4, 2007********************************************

2007 totals

Suicides: 0
Undetermined/Suspicious: 0
Vehicle Deaths (No Homicide): 3
Vehicle Deaths (Homicide): 0
Other (accidental deaths): 2

February 7, 2007
Accidental Gun Death
Esequial Domínguez, 20, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at about 9:00 a.m. He was handling the handgun when it accidentally discharged. There were no signs of foul play or intoxication.

February 10, 2007
Vehicle Death
Kara White, aged in her 20s, died from injuries sustained when she lost control of her Honda Passport just before midnight on the Ski Valley Road. She was not wearing her seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle.

February 13, 2007
Accidental Work Site Death
Wilfred Rael, 56, owner of Rael Excavation, died when a trench collapsed on him at an El Prado work site. It took rescuers two hours to free Rael’s body from the trench.

February 17, 2007
Double Vehicle Death
Michael Martínez, 35, of Albuquerque, and Steven G, Martínez, 48, of Taos, died when the white Toyota Camry being driven by Michael Martínez lost control while traveling at a high rate of speed on Kit Carson Road, and crashed into Grimshaw Fine Art Gallery at about 11:00 p.m. The vehicle left 235 feet of “side slide” skidmarks on the roadway leading up to the point of impact. The men were not wearing seat belts and alcohol was likely a factor in the crash. The police had been on the lookout for the vehicle after it had reportedly left Kachina Lodge with an intoxicated driver behind the wheel. This is the third incident in the last 15 months where a vehicle has crashed into a storefront on Kit Carson Road, and the first of the three to result in fatalities.

Read the Latest Edition:
December 18, 2009
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General News
   Taos Becomes a NM Arts and Culture District

Local Government
   Reprinted from Taos Horse Fly Daily news December 5 & 6, 2009

   Taos Inn

   Legislators “Fix” Deficit in a Special Session

Cover Story

Art Beat
   Taos Writers Part 1

   PTSD and Children


Linda Kemper Fair
   Latin Anyone?

Pop Culture
   Stage in the Sage

   The Best Time of the Year: Lake Tahoe

Home and Garden
   Communing With Nature

   Catalogue of Tears, Part 1

   Catalogue of Tears, Part 2

Guest Columns
   Creating Sanctuary

Catherine Naylor
   Whaley and His Horse Fly Take a Final Bow 1999-2009

Body & Soul
   Flying Over the Cuckoos’ Nest

Renegade Style
   Who (Not Where) Were You Before Taos?

Streit Talk
   Chasing The Dragon Part 2

   Life Relative to Time and Family

Money Matters
   What’s a Financial Adviser?

The Secret Museum
   The Fall & A Few Loose Ends

Business & Sustainability
   Coca-Cola Red for Christmas

Fox's Den
   Damage Control is Not Leadership

   Events & Announcements

Local Business
   Business Differently

From the Publisher
   Responsible Media

Taos Life
   Challenges in Socialization

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