Sandoval County Sheriff's Deputy Victor Rodriguez (second from right) was recognized as the agency's Deputy of the Year for 2016. Four other officers were nominated by SCOS personnel. They were Deputy Jacob Trujillo (left), Sgt. Mark Komadina (right) and Deputies Eric Stein and Philip Montaño who were not present for the awards made by Lt. Keith Elder (second from left) and Undersheriff Karl Wiese.
Photo credit: —Sidney Hill
Sergeant nominated by other officers named Deputy of the Year
A sergeant in the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office Civil Division who helped crack two significant criminal cases has been recognized as the agency's Deputy of the Year.
Sergeant Victor Rodriguez is credited with streamlining and speeding up the process of serving court-related documents, stepping in when other deputies were tied up in court or transporting, and volunteering on days off to join in community relations events. Like the other four deputies nominated for the award, he also is commended for his integrity, work ethic, support of fellow officers, and enthusiasm for law enforcement.
Rodriguez pursued leads and developed information in the deaths of three people in a case linked to Mexican drug cartels, Undersheriff Karl Weise said during the award presentation before the County Commission and a large audience on January 12. That work led to locating the bodies and arresting three suspects, he added.
In another case, his skilled interviewing of a man who denied involvement in a sex crime against a child eventually brought a confession, Wiese said.
The five officers were nominated by their peers and a committee of supervisors not involved in nominations made the final selection. Also recognized for their dedication and extra efforts were Sergeant Mark Komadina and Deputies Philip Montaño, Eric Stein, and Jacob Trujillo.
Two women and three children found dead in pueblo backcountry
The deaths of two sisters and their three children remain unexplained as the FBI investigates the discovery of their bodies on Santa Ana Pueblo.
On January 8, 9, and 10, officers searching rugged country north of Jemez Dam found the bodies of Vanessa and Leticia George, 25 and 20 respectively, Vanessa's daughters ages 4 and 11, and Leticia's one-year-old daughter. Vanessa George's pickup truck also was located among junipers off road and down a steep slope.
Preliminary autopsies have not determined how they died, and the FBI is saying little other than the investigation is continuing.
"We're waiting to get all the pieces together before we can say anything," FBI Albuquerque Media Coordinator Frank Fisher told the Signpost.
Fisher declined to expand on a comment in a January 10 news release that said, "foul play by another party" was not suspected in the deaths. However, in the days before the first bodies were found, a snowstorm shut down roads and schools in the area as low temperatures recorded on consecutive nights in Albuquerque hit 14 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Albuquerque Police Department had previously issued a missing-persons alert for the women and children saying they were last seen on January 5 on the pueblo. The alert also said Murphy Becenti, the estranged boyfriend of Vanessa George's children, had been released from jail a week earlier and was known to be violent toward her.
The five were neither Santa Ana tribal members nor affiliated with pueblo, according to a statement released by tribal officials. The Navajo Times reported they were originally from Red Valley, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation.
Telephone scammer cites missed jury duty
The Sandoval County Sheriff's Office is warning of a telephone scam by someone claiming to be a sheriff's employee who attempts to extort money from people that, the scammer says, have failed to appear for jury duty.
The caller claims the only way to avoid an arrest warrant is to pay $1,500 by prepaid credit card. They may leave a message with the phone number 505-437-0188, which is not a legitimate law enforcement number.
"Currently, the Sheriff’s Office has received numerous calls and walk-ins from concerned citizens complaining about the calls," a January news release states. "The Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into these calls and this scam…. If you receive a call, simply hang up without discussing your situation with the scammer. If you have a message to return a telephone call regarding the failure to appear for jury duty or an arrest warrant do not call the scammer."
SCSO handles all financial transactions at its office and does not demand money over the phone or by email, the release adds.
The real number for the sheriff's office is 867-7526. Anyone contacted by the scammer can report the incident to the sheriff's office at 891-7226.
Bust of Placitas mailbox burglars solves Albuquerque vehicle break-ins
The arrest of two Albuquerque residents charged with breaking into mailboxes in Placitas closed at least nine auto burglary cases in Albuquerque, the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office reports.
Deputy Robert Torres was patrolling Placitas at about 2:20 a.m. on December 27 when he spotted a black Chevrolet Malibu parked near cluster mailboxes on Vista Montaña Loop near State Route 165. As Torres approached on foot, he saw a man with hand tools trying to open the boxes and a woman who instead of getting out of the car as ordered fired it up and sped away.
Torres reported he was nearly run over and had to grab the man to pull him to safety.
Paul A. Garcia, 24, of Albuquerque was taken into custody on multiple charges including an outstanding arrest warrant. Bernalillo police officers spotted the car on U.S. Highway 550 and chased it until the woman identified as Elexus J. Groves, 21, crashed at the intersection of Camino Don Tomas and Calle Don Francisco.
She was arrested after being treated for minor injuries at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center.
The investigation revealed the Hertz car-rental company had reported the Malibu as stolen. That allowed Hertz to identify 21 other stolen cars and recovery six of them.
Also recovered was personal property taken in auto burglaries in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights and far-northeast neighborhoods, most of which was returned to its owners. Victims of recent burglaries who lost watches, jewelry, or an auto sound system can contact Detective Robert Salas at 867-7526 to view the property.
Sandoval County deputies investigate fatal crash
~Keith Elder, Lieutenant, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department
On January 06, Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputies were called to a two-vehicle fatal crash on US 550 near milepost 95. The crash occurred when the victim lost control of his northbound 2003 Dodge Pickup. The victim’s pickup skidded into the southbound lanes and collided with a southbound semi-truck. It appears that speed, as well as winter driving conditions, were factors in the crash. Neither of the passengers of the pickup was wearing their seatbelt and both passengers were ejected from the pickup.
The driver is identified as Michael Chavez, 47, of Albuquerque. Michael Chavez was pronounced dead at the scene. The passenger, Michael Rodriguez, 29, of Albuquerque was flown to University of New Mexico hospital in critical condition. There were no reports of injury to the driver of the semi-truck.
US 550 was closed for a period of time to complete the investigation. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in this crash. Updates on the condition of the passenger have not been received by the sheriff’s office.