2021 ends with nine homicides in Las Cruces. Here's where each case stands.

·7 min read

LAS CRUCES - Despite an onslaught of killings in the fall, Las Cruces fell short of reaching the record number of homicide deaths in 2021.

In 2021, Las Cruces saw nine homicide investigations, all of which resulted in arrests. According to statistics collected by the FBI, Las Cruces typically sees around five or six homicides per year.

Nine homicide investigations led to the arrests of 13 people, including five teenagers in 2021. In all but two cases, police said that the victims were shot by their assailants. All nine homicides also featured men being killed by other men or teenage boys, according to police.

Ramon Archuleta, Corey Willis, James Garcia, Nicodemus Gonzales, Brandon King, Dante Garcia, Eziekel Diaz, Mathew Portillo and Carlos Ruiz were killed in 2021. In each case families were deprived of a loved one and the community lost a member to violence.

All nine cases are in the middle of criminal proceedings but none have reached a resolution.

Ramon Archuleta

The first killing of the year was Ramon Archuleta. He was 37 years old.

Ramon Archuleta, 37, of Las Cruces.
Ramon Archuleta, 37, of Las Cruces.

Police believe that Alfonso Rodriguez, 32, shot and killed Archuleta at the apartment complex off Picacho Avenue on March 28. Rodriguez was arrested on April 27 in Ciudad Juárez and extradited back to New Mexico.

Police believe Rodriguez shot and killed Archuleta after the two men got into a fight near Archuleta's home.

Rodriguez is currently being held in jail without bond as he awaits his trial scheduled to begin on Feb. 21. Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder. Rodriguez's trial was scheduled to begin in October 2021, but prosecutors requested a continuance.

More: Trial delayed in Alfonso Rodriguez murder case

At the time, a prosecutor told a judge that they were waiting on an autopsy report from the Office of the Medical Investigator.

Corey Willis

The second killing of the year occurred at the Doña Ana County Detention Center.

Corey Willis
Corey Willis

Corey Willis was 29 when police said he was jumped by another detainee on May 27, 2021. He succumbed to his injuries the following day and was taken off of life support. Willis was surrounded by family when he died, according to a family member who spoke to the Sun-News. Willis' friend told the Sun-News that he was loyal to a fault.

Police accused 40-year-old Samuel Enriquez of the killing and charged him with second-degree murder. Enriquez, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was in jail awaiting trial for his role in an alleged attempted murder in 2019. Police said in an affidavit that Enriquez and Willis had a feud stemming back months from another jailhouse brawl.

Enriquez is scheduled for trial on March 15, 2022.

James Garcia

No homicide captured and horrified Las Cruces like the Apodaca Park killing.

James Garcia, 51, was decapitated by 25-year-old Joel Arciniega-Saenz on June 20, 2021, according to police. While Arciniega-Saenz pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder, police said that he admitted to murder when they interrogated him after discovering Garcia.

More: Brutal details in Apodaca Park killing reignite trauma for victim's family

The alleged motive of the Apodaca Park killing remains strange. Police said in an affidavit that Arciniega-Saenz believed Garcia had sexually assaulted his wife. However, police were unable to locate the woman Arciniega-Saenz said he was married to. The affidavit said they don't believe the woman exists.

Police in 2017 had charged Arciniega-Saenz with first-degree murder in an unrelated incident but prosecutors dropped the count after a key witness was unable to testify.

Arciniega-Saenz is scheduled for trial on April 11, 2022. He's being held in jail on a judge's order.

Nicodemus Gonzales

Nicodemus "Nico" Gonzales was 23 when he was shot and killed at a party. Police believe that Gonzales was a bystander to a conflict between two other groups of people but was hit by stray gunfire.

One of Nicodemus "Nico" Gonzales senior photos. Nico graduated in 2016.
One of Nicodemus "Nico" Gonzales senior photos. Nico graduated in 2016.

Two people were arrested and charged with murder in Gonzales' death.

Isiah Taylor, 19, and Mawu Ekon Revels, 18, were both charged with murder after Gonzales' death. Revels, who was 17 years old at the time of the shooting, is a high school student in Las Cruces.

While both Taylor and Revels are being charged as adults, Judge Conrad Perea ordered both cases sealed. Perea cited the presence of minors as case witnesses as the reason.

A spokesperson for the 3rd Judicial District Attorney's Office said both cases were still proceeding and that Taylor and Revels remained in jail while awaiting trial.

Brandon King

On Aug. 14, 2021, Brandon King was shot and killed. He was 33.

Police believe that King and 28-year-old Doroteo Vasquez got into an argument over Vasquez's girlfriend and King's ex-girlfriend. Police said that Vasquez pulled out a rifle from his car and shot King

During an interview with police, Vasquez said that King attacked him first with a stick or a pipe before Vasquez shot him. He admitted to shooting King in the same interview, according to the police statement of facts. Vasquez has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder.

Vasquez was scheduled to begin his trial this month, however, prosecutors requested a continuance in the case. A new trial has not yet been scheduled.

Ezekiel Diaz

Two days after King was killed, 40-year-old Ezekiel Diaz was shot and killed at the intersection of Lohman Avenue and Walnut Street.

A memorial for Ezekiel "Zeke" Diaz is pictured on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, at the intersection of Lohman Avenue and Walnut Street after Diaz was shot and killed on Aug. 16.
A memorial for Ezekiel "Zeke" Diaz is pictured on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, at the intersection of Lohman Avenue and Walnut Street after Diaz was shot and killed on Aug. 16.

Two men were arrested and charged with murder following Diaz's death. Jimmy Levi Rogers, 29, was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service in California. Hector Victor Calderon, 28, was arrested in Las Cruces.

Both men are charged with first-degree murder and both men have pleaded not guilty. Additionally, both men are being held in jail as they await trial.

Police believe that Diaz and Rogers had a long-standing feud that culminated in a drive-by shooting on Lohman Avenue. Calderon assisted Rogers in the killing, police said.

Rogers is scheduled for a trial in May while Calderon has not yet had a trial scheduled.

Dante Garcia

Police said Dante Garcia, 16, was shot and killed by a 17-year-old boy, accompanied by a 16-year-old girl and two 13-year-old girls. The shooting occurred on Sept. 1, 2021.

In a news release at the time, police said the 17-year-old boy is charged with an open count of murder, one count of tampering with evidence and two counts of conspiracy.

The 16-year-old girl was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence. The two 13-year-old girls were charged with tampering with evidence and conspiracy.

Prosecutors have declined to release the identities of the teens charged. A spokesperson with the DA's office said that all four teens were being held in jail and that all four cases remained active and ongoing.

Matthew Portillo

Mathew Portillo, 31, was found dead on the 1000 block of Juniper Avenue on Sept. 5, 2021. Police said that Portillo was shot.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested and charged with murder. Because of the age of the defendant, the case was sealed. According to a spokesperson with the DA's office, the case against the 16-year-old boy is still active and that boy is being held in jail.

Police did not release information about why they believe the shooting occurred.

Portillo was remembered by friends and family as a good father, sports lover, and great cook, according to his obituary.

Carlos Ruiz

The final homicide case of 2021 was Carlos Ruiz.

Ruiz was 30 years old when police said he and Tyler Williams, 26, got into an argument over a television. At the conclusion of the argument, police said that Williams pulled out a shotgun and killed Ruiz outside of Ruiz's apartment on Oct. 19.

Williams is charged with an open count of murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Williams has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Two other violent deaths

Two other men were killed in Las Cruces in 2021.

Gustavo Angel Esparza, 35, was killed by police after police said he shot at an officer conducting a traffic stop on October 10, 2021. Police said that Esparza shot at them during a traffic stop. That incident was followed by a standoff that ended when police shot and killed Esparza.

Anthony Malone was shot and killed at the Red Eye Smoke and Gift Shop on the 1400 block of Missouri Avenue on Dec. 20, 2021. He was 26. While the city and LCPD have not provided many details about the killing, a spokesperson did say that the suspected shooter was interviewed after the shooting. No one has been arrested in Malone's death.

Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at JEGarcia@lcsun-news.com or on Twitter @Just516garc.

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This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: 2021 ends with nine homicides in Las Cruces. Here's where each case stands.

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