ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
In 1984, Jack McDowell was a New Mexico State Police officer who served as part of Gov. Toney Anaya’s security detail.
Last year, the retired officer and his son were charged with murder in the stabbing death of a Rio Rancho man in a dispute over drugs and property, police say.
Court documents describe the former law enforcement officer as an alleged gun runner and meth dealer who incited fear of retaliation in anyone who might testify against him.
McDowell had ties to the notorious Bandidos motorcycle gang, and a witness told police he made silencers in his garage, dealt meth from his Rio Rancho house and ran stolen guns, according to a six-page arrest warrant affidavit filed in state District Court in Sandoval County.
The affidavit, which originally was sealed, details the 18-month-long investigation that led to the arrest of Jack McDowell, 57, and his son, John McDowell, in January 2013. Both men pleaded innocent to the charges against them.
The affidavit quotes police as saying one reason the investigation took so long was that at least one witness would not identify James Chavez’s attackers from an array of photos and others would not work with investigators, all due to fear of retaliation.
“… It is known on the streets that you don’t mess with Jack McDowell due to his connections with the Bandidos biker gang and with law enforcement,” Rio Rancho Police Detective Richard Romero wrote in the affidavit.
The McDowells were members of the Black Berets Motorcycle Club, which is associated with the Bandidos gang, according to police. The U.S. Department of Justice considers the Bandidos to be an outlaw motorcycle gang that engages in violent crime and deals weapons and drugs.
The two McDowells were charged in January 2013 with an open count of murder, two counts of aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence in connection with 35-year-old Chavez’s death in July 2011.
The men are being held on a $1 million cash-only bond at the Sandoval County Detention Center awaiting trial.
The affidavit says the McDowells believed Chavez stole drugs, a gun and other property from them.
Around 1:30 a.m. on July 10, 2011, after receiving a 911 call from an unknown woman, Rio Rancho police found Chavez dead of stab wounds in a home on Idaho Creek Road in Rio Rancho.
Police learned John McDowell was dating Catherine Chavez, James Chavez’s ex-wife. The Chavezes had recently divorced and there was an ongoing feud about how to divide their assets, some of which were at the couple’s foreclosed-on home in Rio Rancho, according to court documents.
James Chavez had filed a report with police weeks earlier that said John McDowell threatened him with a gun at the home, according to court documents.
Casey Williams told police she was in the home with James Chavez and her boyfriend, David Dinelli, when three men entered the home with knives and a sawed-off shotgun, police wrote in the affidavit. Dinelli fled through a window and Williams was forced into the garage, where she said she heard James Chavez cry out as he was being attacked by a man who matched Jack McDowell’s description, according to the affidavit.
Police said witnesses finally cooperated with them after they were arrested on unrelated charges.
Dinelli told police that, after fleeing the Chavezes’ home, he hid behind a neighbor’s truck and watched the home. He identified the McDowells and Anthony VillaGomez as the attackers, according to police.
VillaGomez was arrested on federal firearms charges in November 2012. He told police that he accompanied the McDowells to James Chavez’s house to rob Chavez and Jack McDowell stabbed the man.
Robert Cole, Jack McDowell’s attorney, said he planned to file motions seeking to exclude some witnesses from testifying. He said VillaGomez received immunity in Chavez’s death in exchange for his testimony.
Earlier this year, Cole filed a motion asking that the case against Jack McDowell be separated from the one against his son.
Lemuel Martinez, the district attorney for Sandoval County, said his office will argue against the motion. One of the arguments will be that prosecutors will use the same set of facts and evidence against both men.
“We will argue that we should have one trial instead of two,” Martinez said.