Petaca woman pleads not guilty to double homicide

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Victoria Traxler, The Santa Fe New Mexican
·2 min read
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May 4—A woman facing criminal charges in a double homicide last month in Petaca pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and other charges against her.

Michael Barela, 59, and his uncle Larry Herrera, 74, were killed March 29 outside a home in the tiny community about 18 miles north of Ojo Caliente. Rio Arriba County deputies later arrested 43-year-old Bonita Burkheimer and her boyfriend, 53-year-old Anthony Peña, after a witness identified them as the attackers.

Both were charged with two counts of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and other crimes, according to court records.

Authorities found Herrera with gunshot wounds to his right leg, upper chest and lower neck. Barela was shot in the side of his stomach, court records said.

The witness told deputies Burkheimer and Peña had arrived at the Petaca home in a white Ford F350 truck and got out with rifles in hand.

When she realized what was going to happen, the witness said, she attempted to hit Peña's gun to make him miss his shots, but she could not stop him. As the victims lay on the ground, the witness said, she started fighting with Burkeheimer, who had pulled out a knife and was attempting to stab her.

Peña then told Burkeheimer to stop, and the pair fled, according to a criminal complaint.

Deputies later found Peña's blood-splattered truck near a mobile home. They also found a rifle inside the truck and another hidden under the skirting of the mobile home, the complaint said.

Defense attorney Camilla Cordova entered pleas of not guilty on all counts on behalf of Burkheimer, who remains in custody at the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla.

Cordova could not be reached for comment.