Police: Female suspects kill man; speed into Belen
Three women, including a juvenile, have been charged in connection with a murder after police discovered a man’s body in the trunk of his own car following a high-speed chase that ended in Belen on Friday.
Ashlee Gurule, 20, Jennifer McKee, 18, both of Albuquerque, have been charged in Bernalillo County in the stabbing death of 51-year-old Maurice Gonzales, of Albuquerque. Sixteen-year-old Julia Martinez, of Gallup, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Gurule and McKee also are charged with tampering with evidence.
A criminal complaint says McKee told police the three, all homeless, planned to kill Martinez because they wanted his car, and because he “tried to rape them at his house.”
Gonzales worked as a probation and parole officer with the New Mexico Corrections Department from August 1991 until April 2000, according to Alex Tomlin, a department spokeswoman.
McKee was driving the car Friday that struck three other vehicles in Belen before being stopped by police. She also is charged in Valencia County with aggravated fleeing and evading, reckless driving and aggravated assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon.
State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said McKee tried to run over an officer during the chase.
The incident began when a state police officer was patrolling southbound Interstate 25 in Los Lunas just before 3:30 p.m. Friday when he observed a silver-colored Dodge Avenger holding up traffic in the left passing lane.
The sergeant said when the officer tried to pull the car over, McKee sped away. At speeds up to 100 mph, the chase continued south on I-25 into Belen, where officers followed the women through several residential neighborhoods.
Leroy Martinez, who lives on the corner of Chavez and 10th Street in Belen, said he was at home watching television when he heard the sirens.
“I went outside and saw two state police cars chase the silver car east on Chavez toward the dead end,” Martinez said. “It was crazy. They skidded, and turned right on (Perizzite) and then on Picard to Main. I heard on my scanner that they threw out spike belts, but I don’t know.”
In the nearby neighborhood of Esperanza and 11th Street, Belen City Councilor Wayne Gallegos also was inside his home. He described the waling sirens as if someone had turned up the volume on his television.
“I heard them and looked out my window,” Gallegos said of the police units chasing the suspects. “The sirens were blasting.”
The chase ended at the city’s busiest intersection, Main and Reinken Avenue, where McKee was “driving aggressively” and tried to “squeeze between several vehicles,” Gutierrez said.
At that time, two state police officers conducted a felony stop, with their weapons drawn. After the women were taken into custody, Gutierrez said the officers conducted a safety sweep of the car.
“It was when they checked the trunk of the car they discovered what appeared to be a deceased individual,” Gutierrez said.
The victims in the three cars hit by the suspects’ vehicle sustained minor injures, including Sammie Lechuga, 73, and his wife, Lutie, 70, of Belen, who were in a green-colored Honda Civic. The couple was transported to an Albuquerque hospital and released.
Maxine Lopez, who was driving a Nissan Stanza, was hit from behind by the couple, and side-swiped by the suspects’ vehicle.
“I’m in shock,” Lopez said. “I was so scared. I was crying, but more for my son and grandson, who was freaking out. But they’re OK. We’re just going to go get checked out.”
Lopez was on her way to Blake’s Lotaburger on River Road after shopping at Walmart when she first noticed state police chasing the women. She said she passing by O’Reilly’s on N.M. 314 when she saw the silver car passing her and state police right behind them.
“I pulled over, like I’m supposed to do,” she said. “As I continued to drive, I saw a Belen officer at the school zone on Main Street, so I pulled over again.”
Thinking it was all over, Lopez stopped at the light on Main and Reinken. That’s when she felt the impact of a car hitting her from behind and the Dodge Avenger, driven by the suspects, hit her from the side.
After the crash, Lopez saw the state police officers draw their guns on the women. She also saw another officer trying to kick the passenger side window in to get the women out.
“I didn’t see them open the trunk,” Lopez said. “I’m glad I didn’t, or else I think I would be having nightmares tonight.”
According to the criminal complaint, Gurule, McKee and Martinez took a bus to Gonzales’ apartment in the 400 block of Zena Lona NE in Albuquerque. They dropped Martinez off at a nearby McDonald’s, telling her to check in with them by phone every 20 minutes.
Then they smoked marijuana, according to the complaint, and performed a sex act on Gonzales in his living room. At a pre-arranged signal, McKee and Gurule stabbed Gonzales with their knives, one of which was described as “leopard print and pink.”
When he didn’t die right away, they tried to suffocate him with a pillow, the complaint says. When he appeared still to be breathing, they stabbed him many more times.
“Ashlee stated she did most of the stabbing, but Jennifer helped her,” the complaint reads.
Then the two rolled him in blankets, carried his body to the garage — dropping him several times on the way — and stuffed him into the trunk of his silver Dodge Avenger, which they also packed with their own bloody clothes and the knives, the complaint says.
After cleaning up the apartment, they set out, with McKee at the wheel, for the West Mesa, but couldn’t find a suitable dumping spot and decided to dump the body in Los Lunas instead.
“This case was solved based on the diligence of the officers,” Gutierrez said. “This was just going to be an ordinary traffic stop, but we’re trained to know that there’s no random traffic stop. We don’t know how it could have ended if they had just stopped on Friday.
“They could have just ended up with a citation, or the officer could have picked up on clues during the stop and we would have had another outcome. We’ll never know.”
On April 20, Gonzales was charged with two counts of aggravated assault. Court records show that a woman he used to live with had come by with two friends to pick up some of her belongings because Gonzales had texted her to say he was dumping them on the porch.
When she got there, she didn’t see her things, so she climbed over his fence, only to find Gonzales coming out of the house with a large black-handled knife, waving it and threatening her, according to a criminal complaint. When she tried to climb back over the fence with the help of a friend, Gonzales struck both the woman and her friend with the knife, court documents show.
Gurule and McKee are both being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, while Martinez is being held at the Juvenile Detention Center.
(Albuquerque Journal reporter Elaine Tassy contributed to this story.)
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