Northern NM homicides drug cartel related

Posted at: 12/27/2012 6:47 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

As if four homicides within weeks of each other wasn't already enough, the Rio Arriba County Sheriff says there is no doubt the execution style killings are Mexican drug cartel related.

Earlier this month two bodies were found inside a travel trailer in Hernandez.

The victims were identified as Gino Valdez and Matthew Maestas. Both were killed in an execution style - each with five gunshot wounds hit point blank in the head.

A similar scene was discovered less than two weeks later. Two burned bodies were found in a torched mobile home near Medanales.

Tomas Sanchez, 20, was one of the victims. He was also the primary suspect in the Hernandez double homicide.

"It was drug related, and we do feel that certainly there is some Mexican cartel influence in these homicides," Rodella said. "I think we're seeing it more often, but I think anyone of us could go back probably 20, 25 years and we can see cases that would be similar to this where someone's killed and then the place is torched."

Rodella said his office is trying to tackle, but it doesn't help that the department is extremely understaffed.

He says they've been denied more funding from the Rio Arriba County Commission.

"We've had a sheriff that has ignored the budget process here at the county, he's refused to come in front of the commission and present us a well thought out plan," County Commissioner Barney Trujillo said.

And without that, he says the commission has no mission to support.

"He does not have an investigator, a detective on his staff to try to solve a lot of these crimes and murders that have taken place and that would be one of the first places I would look into getting if I were him as opposed to say hiring a public information officer or hiring an executive secretary to work in his department," Trujillo said.

Rodella says he's asked three different times, in writing, to present a formal plan before the commission, and each time he was ignored.