Murder probe widens

December 5, 2012 • Local News

Chaves County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Daniel Ornelas said the [auth] inter-agency meeting between Chaves, Lea and Eddy county sheriffs, New Mexico State Police, and the Hobbs and Artesia police departments had been a success in terms of coordinating their efforts. The agencies are involved in different aspects of the investigation of the two bodies found in Chaves County.

Juan Uribe-Vidal, 25, of Hobbs, and James Gomez, 22, of Hagerman, were arrested for the shooting of Lea County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Michael Tovar on Nov. 23, when officials served a Chaves County search warrant on a residence at 61 E. Everglade Road in Hobbs.

Sheriff Rob Coon said that Gomez is now considered a person of interest, along with Uribe-Vidal, in connection with the homicides in Chaves County. The first body was located east of Hagerman, along N.M. Hwy 249 on Nov. 19. The second was found Nov. 21, next to Buffalo Valley Road, east of Lake Arthur. The second man has been identified as Mark T. Walters III.

Coon said that the investigation of Uribe-Vidal has now stretched beyond New Mexico’s borders to other states where he is supposed to have connections.

The New Mexico State Police have assisted in searches of Uribe-Vidal’s vehicle. Coon said they have served warrants on other vehicles and the NMSP has completed the forensic examination.

Meanwhile, the legal wrangling over the charges Gomez has pending in Chaves County for aggravated assault and aggravated battery continues.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Murphy filed a motion on Nov. 29 to review James Gomez’s conditions of release. Gomez was released from Chaves County Detention Center on a $10,000 cash surety bond on Oct. 2. According to the conditions of release, he was not supposed to leave Chaves County or handle firearms. Gomez admitted to handling and firing guns during the shoot-out in Hobbs.

Gomez’s mother Maria Gomez has filed a motion to exonerate his bond. According to Murphy, the county would then have to release the bond money paid back to the family. The Gomez motion also states that a detainer should be placed on Gomez, which means even if he were able to pay the $3,000 surety of his $30,000 bond for the charges of aggravated assault in Lea County, he would still be held until other issues had been resolved.

Chaves County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in the identification of the first body found near Hagerman. Ornelas said the unidentified victim was a Hispanic male between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, weight 140 to 150 pounds. The victim had several distinctive tattoos, including a large one on his left upper arm of a crucifix with Jesus surrounded by clouds. He had the word “Molina” tattooed on his right forearm. Anyone with information about the identity of the victim is asked to contact the sheriff at 624-6500 or Crime Stoppers, 888-594-TIPS (8477).

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