A Chimayó man awoke Sunday morning and found a dead body in his front yard.
Juanito Martinez, 23, of Española, died of an apparent gunshot wound to his stomach, and investigators are calling the death a homicide. The official cause of death will not be known until completion of an autopsy by the state Office of the Medical Investigator.
Law enforcement agencies disagree whether New Mexico State Police properly responded to a report of gunshots in the area at 2:40 a.m. Sunday morning.
The Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office did not have officers on duty at that hour, and spokesman Jake Arnold said the call to dispatch was forwarded to state police. Arnold said Monday that it is his office’s belief that no officers responded to the call.
State police Lt. Robert McDonald said Monday, however, that two officers did respond. But he said the caller told police that the gunshots were heard near the dollar store off County Road 94 in Chimayó. Martinez was found on a property off County Road 91 near N.M. 76, about a mile a way.
“We did respond to this 911 call and after an hour patrolling the area, nothing of concern was found,” McDonald said.
He said his officers also searched an arroyo behind the dollar store in Chimayó.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella refused to comment to The New Mexican on his office’s case Monday. Although he confirmed details of the investigation contained in other news reports, Arnold said, “The Rio Arriba Sheriff’s Office is not speaking with The New Mexican as a result of an editorial run during the (Democratic primary) election about Sheriff Rodella.”
Arnold did say that investigators have detained “persons of interest” but that they had not named anyone as a suspect in the shooting. Arnold did not say if there is a known motive in the case.
Martinez was a 2006 graduate of Española Valley High School, according to his Facebook page. A good friend of the family, Lisa Meyer, said Monday that Martinez was “fun, easygoing and cared a lot about his family.”
Meyer is the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor for Martinez’s sister, Lorraine Martinez. Meyer said she has been a part of the Martinez family for more than a decade and that Juanito Martinez was not involved in any gang activity or drug activity. Juanito Martinez’s Facebook page, however, lists the gang “West Side Lokos” in his basic information.
“We’re really at a loss as to why something like this happened,” Meyer said.
Juanito Martinez had jumped from job to job, according to Meyer, but had begun studying at Northern New Mexico College and hoped to become a certified nursing assistant. Meyer said Martinez lived in Española with his mother and that his stepfather, who had died in the past year, had owned a house in Chimayó.
Meyer added that if Martinez had been found soon after the 911 call was made, “I believe that he possibly could have been saved.”
Sunday’s homicide is the second in Chimayó in a week. Hector Martinez, 29, (no relation) was shot and killed on July 31 off County Road 94A.
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler.