Oct. 13—An Albuquerque man is accused of killing a transgender woman he was having a yearslong affair with and leaving her body in a drainage tunnel last month on the West Side.
Jose Mendoza-Espinoza, 29, is charged with an open count of murder and four counts of tampering with evidence in the Sept. 17 death of 35-year-old Sherlyn Marjorie.
Mendoza-Espinoza was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Wednesday. It is unclear if he has an attorney.
Marjorie was initially reported missing to the Albuquerque Police Department after she was last seen on Sept. 16, according to court records. On Sept. 26, a search party of family and friends, having first found her car, discovered her body in a tunnel underneath Central at 136th NW.
The group told deputies they recognized the acrylic nails on her fingers.
Jayme Fuller, a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said, "There is no evidence to suggest or reason to believe that this incident was a hate crime specifically targeting individuals in the transgender community."
Mendoza-Espinoza allegedly told detectives he killed Marjorie after she tried to extort him for money and tell his wife about the affair, according to court records. There was no corroborating evidence backing up the extortion claims provided in court records.
Prosecutors have filed a motion to detain Mendoza-Espinoza until trial, calling him a "dangerous individual."
"(Mendoza-Espinoza) entered and continued an unconventional lifestyle while being (married)," according to the motion. "His course of action was a sexual contact with the victim and then kill the victim."
After Marjorie's disappearance, dozens took to social media to plead for tips on her whereabouts. By Thursday, many were posting messages mourning Marjorie, who often performed at local drag shows.
"I will miss your shows on stages, but ... I am sure you will shine up there forever and ever," one person commented. Another wrote, "I was still hopeful that they would find you alive cousin. It's sad that it's not like that. R.I.P. Sherlyn Marjorie. The best impersonator in Tijuana, my second Edith Marquez."
Marjorie was reported missing to APD on Sept. 24 and, within hours, a search party found her car at a Love's gas station at Central and Atrisco Vista. Deputies responded and notified APD.
"Since Sherlyn was not located with the vehicle, APD advised deputies they would not be coming out and to treat the vehicle as abandoned," according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. Marjorie's car was released to her family at that point.
APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said, up until that point, officers had searched hospitals and Marjorie's home but found no signs of endangerment.
On Sept. 26, the search party called BCSO after finding her beaten to death inside the tunnel, bound in tape and plastic, a half block from where her car was located.
Deputies said Marjorie's friends told them she had arranged to meet with a man early on Sept. 17, but they didn't know who. Detectives searched Marjorie's car GPS and found she had visited a mobile home park on Atrisco Vista, south of Central.
Video surveillance from the mobile home park showed a man in an SUV meet with Marjorie outside a trailer in the name of Mendoza-Espinoza's wife, according to the complaint. Mendoza-Espinoza was detained and told detectives he and Marjorie, who he knew as transgendered, had been having a two- to three-year-long affair.
Deputies said Mendoza-Espinoza told them he was "thinking about getting a divorce" but "was very worried about his wife finding out about his sexual preferences." He told deputies Marjorie had threatened to expose the affair and he had taken out loans to pay her to keep quiet.
Mendoza-Espinoza told deputies he had sex with Marjorie before she again extorted him outside his mobile home on Sept. 17, according to the complaint. He said they argued and "he flipped out" and beat her to death.
Deputies said Mendoza-Espinoza told them he bound her with tape, hid her body in the tunnel, left her car at the gas station and threw their cellphones into the mesa.