The three men who are charged in an Albuquerque shooting that left two men dead and two others injured last August are known to the FBI as suspected members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, according to recently unsealed court documents.
The documents lay out the investigation into that case, as well as another fatal shooting several months later and the group’s possible connection to a woman found dead by the side of the road in Taos County.
Eder Ortiz-Parra, 24, his brother Edwin Ortiz-Parra, 26, and his cousin Rafael Gonzalez-Parra, 25, are all charged with two counts of murder, aggravated battery, kidnapping and several other charges in the Aug. 8 death of Daniel Chumacero and Juan Carlos Saenz-Ponce. Eder Ortiz-Parra is also charged with murder in the Dec. 12 shooting of Gilberto Medina-Pena on Albuquerque’s West Side.
The FBI has been aware of all three, as well as a fourth man who has not been arrested, as members of the Sinaloa Cartel since at least last November, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. The Sinaloa Cartel is one of two major Mexican drug cartels active in New Mexico and controls 40 percent to 60 percent of illegal drugs used in the United States, according to an investigative report produced by the Journal in February.
A spokesman for the FBI did not respond to questions about the case, including how long the FBI had been aware of the suspects and their connection to the cartel. A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration also did not respond to questions.
On the run
Eder Ortiz-Parra first drew the attention of New Mexico law enforcement in October 2014 when officers with the Las Vegas Police Department found him and two other men near a marijuana grow site in the Santa Fe forest.
According to a criminal complaint filed in the San Miguel County Magistrate Court, a concerned citizen noticed armed men shuttling hoses and other materials up County Road B55 toward Barillas Peak, and asked officers to check it out.
The officers went to investigate and followed a camouflage ATV down a trail off the county road. There, they heard volleys of gunshots and, a short time later, ran into three men in the area, according to the complaint. One of these men was Eder Ortiz-Parra.
The men were taken to the police department, but they were released later that afternoon.
The next day, officers returned to the area and found the grow site, which included a gravity flow system for watering, terraced land, an estimated 105 plants hung out to dry and 600 plants in various stages of the growing process, according to the complaint.
Police filed an arrest warrant for Ortiz-Parra and the two other men, but the men skipped town.
Two and a half years later, Ortiz-Parra was arrested in Albuquerque.
“He was on the run all this time,” said Thomas Clayton, the chief deputy district attorney in San Miguel County. “When they took him into custody on the homicide in Albuquerque, the officer checked to see if he had outstanding warrant and our warrant was discovered.”
Last August, Chumacero and his girlfriend showed up at a relative’s house in Santa Fe, saying he had fled Mexico on the run from a drug cartel boss.
The next day, on Aug. 8, police were called to a house on the 300 block of General Marshall NE in Albuquerque by a man who said he had been shot, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
When officers arrived, they found Chumacero, 24, and another man, Saenz-Ponce, 23, had been shot and killed. Two other men, Jose and Jorge Hernandez, had been shot and injured.
In the backyard, officers found several spent bullet casings, beer bottles and a large amount of blood. They also found several vehicles with hidden compartments typically used to transport drugs.
Almost immediately, detectives began hearing about the cartel. Chumacero’s relative said he had been running drugs for a cartel boss in and out of Mexico. And Jorge Hernandez, one of the injured men, told police Chumacero and Saenz-Ponce had recently sold $7,500 of bad cocaine to someone who was angry and wanted money or the drugs back.
Hernandez said two men showed up inside the house, shot all four victims and stole his cellphone after he called 911.
Was it a ‘hit’?
A little more than a month later, in mid-September, the girlfriend of one of the men who lived in the house on General Marshall was found dead from a gunshot wound to her neck by the side of the road in Taos County, according to the complaint.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said that, on Sept. 18, Carmen “Celeste” Velasquez, 33, of San Luis, Ariz., was found dead by a passerby on County Road 110 near State Road 68.
“She was found there and then two days later her vehicle was found abandoned in an arroyo,” Hogrefe said.
The detective investigating Velasquez’s death told Albuquerque detectives he believed her death was related to their double homicide, according to the complaint.
He said a relative of Velasquez had told him that she and her boyfriend were running drugs for the cartel and her boyfriend had a “green light” or “hit” out on him.
She also said Velasquez owed someone $500 for drugs.
Eder Ortiz-Parra, Edwin Ortiz-Parra and Rafael Gonzalez-Parra were arrested in March in the August multiple shooting after someone came forward with new information.
A concerned citizen told police they had seen Eder Ortiz-Parra and Edwin Ortiz-Parra take one of the victims inside the house on General Marshall while Gonzalez-Parra and another man waited outside. Then the citizen heard multiple gunshots, and watched the four men leave the house and drive away.
Police charged the three with two counts of murder each, along with several other charges.
When they were arrested, another concerned citizen saw Eder Ortiz-Parra on the news and identified him as the man who had shot another Albuquerque victim in December.
On Dec. 12, police were called to the 1100 block of Palisades NW by a woman who said her boyfriend had been shot.
When they arrived, they found Gilberto Medina-Pena, 32, dead in the driveway, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
The woman told detectives two men had knocked on the front door and asked to speak to Medina-Pena. She said he went outside to speak to them and then she heard several gunshots. Medina-Pena’s relative told police he owed money to a man and had recently borrowed $500 to pay him back. Eder Ortiz-Parra was charged with that slaying.
Attorneys for Eder Ortiz-Parra and Rafael Gonzalez-Parra could not be reached Wednesday, but the attorney for Edwin Ortiz-Parra said he is looking forward to his day in court to prove his client’s innocence.
Ben Ortega said his client Edwin was a stay-at-home father of three American children with rental properties he was managing in Mexico.
“There is a specific time, place and manner where we can prove our innocence,” Ortega said. “We have to wait despite how hard it is for him and how bad these allegations against him make him look.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not say this week whether the suspects were in the country legally.
Story provided by Albuquerque Journal.
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