Mother, daughter die in double shooting

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A sharp curve proved to be too much for a 30-year-old fatal-shooting suspect who crashed a stolen pickup Friday morning.

Police say the suspect, Mathew Chavez, was fleeing from police after authorities said he shot and killed two women in Belen the night before.

About 10:35 a.m. Friday, Mathew Chavez crashed the stolen Toyota Tundra pickup truck on the narrow roadway.

Police said Chavez shot and killed Stephanie Gonzales, 24, and her mother, Angela Romero, 48, Thursday night after he got into an argument with Gonzales at a residence at 501 N. 11th St. in Belen.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb said Chavez shot and killed the two women after the argument with Gonzales escalated. Gonzales went to the residence to get her cell phone back from Chavez, according to Robb. The police chief said that Chavez and Gonzales had been dating.

While in the home, Chavez shot Gonzales in the head. Shortly after, he went outside and chased Romero on foot down 11th Street, where she was also shot in the head area, Robb said.

Gonzales died at the scene.

Romero was transported to the hospital, but was declared dead soon after arrival.

Robb said police are unsure what the argument was about, but said that Romero never went inside the home.

“That’s the part that we are investigating,” Robb said. “That’s the part that is kind of sketchy.”

The police chief said there were two other women who live at the home on 11th Street, but were not involved in the altercation and were not injured.

Robb said Chavez lost control of the truck Friday morning while being chased by an officer who spotted the suspect driving in the city limits. Robb said Belen Police Officer Martin Benavidez pursued Chavez from N.M. 116 south to Mill Road, where the suspect turned east onto Jarales Road.

Chavez lost control of the truck on a sharp curve, where the vehicle swerved on and off of the roadway until it flipped on its side with the passenger side of the cab facing up.

Chavez had to be extricated from the vehicle and was transported by helicopter to an Albuquerque hospital.

Robb said Chavez was unconscious and breathing when emergency crews removed him from the vehicle. The police chief said a gun was also found in the cab of the truck.

Police were in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant when Benavidez spotted Chavez in the stolen truck.

“(The officer) saw the driver and thought he was Mathew Chavez,” Robb said. “That’s why we pursued him.”

If Chavez survives the crash, he will be charged with two open counts of murder.

Pat Gallegos, of Rio Communities, was Romero’s uncle and said the two women will be missed. He described the women as good people, who cared for others. He said Romero was a caretaker, who “was ready to help anybody who needed help.”

“She was content and always happy,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said Gonzales was a proud mother of a 3-year-old son, and worked hard for the things she had in life.

“We are going to miss them,” Gallegos said.

Robb said he was surprised when he got the call that there was a possible homicide. The last homicide in Belen happened in 2009 when police said Benjamin Hilburn, a then-10-year-old boy, shot and killed his father in August of that year. That case is pending.

“Double homicides don’t happen around here,” Robb said. “This is the first time I have been (a part of) one, and I have been here 20 years. It’s not a known occurrence.”


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.