ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
One assailant told police the brutal beatings of two homeless men over the weekend continued for an hour and that afterward, one of the young attackers smeared dirt on the victims’ faces and said, “Eat mud, bitch.”
That young attacker said that when he looked at himself in the mirror after the fatal beatings, he “saw the devil.”
Those were among disturbing details that continue to emerge in the bludgeoning deaths of two Navajo homeless men in northwest Albuquerque Friday night.
Three teenagers have been charged in the attack, and in a criminal complaint the three describe gruesome details of how they used cinder blocks, bricks, sticks, a metal fence post, as well as their hands and feet, to take turns bludgeoning the men beyond recognition.
They then threw many of the weapons over a fence so they wouldn’t be found near the bodies, according to the complaint.
Meanwhile, Navajo Nation officials, angered by the deaths, said they plan to meet with Albuquerque city leaders and want to determine whether the brutal attack was an isolated incident or a pattern of violence against Navajos.
The two victims have been identified by several sources as Allison Gorman, 44, and Kee Thompson, who was 45 or 46.
The men were attacked while they slept in an empty lot near 60th Street and Central NW. Police were called to the scene on Saturday morning.
Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carrillo, 16, and Gilbert Tafoya, 15, are charged with two open counts of murder, tampering with evidence, three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and robbery, according to court records.
Tafoya was upset after he had broken up with a girlfriend, and the three randomly targeted the two men, according to the criminal complaint.
All three are jailed on $5 million cash or surety bonds.
The state Office of the Medical Investigator took possession of Gorman and Thompson’s bodies on Saturday, said Kerri Ashburn, an OMI administrator.
Staff at the Albuquerque Indian Center said Albuquerque police asked about the two men, and identified them as the victims in the attack. OMI confirmed that it received the bodies of Gorman and Thompson on Saturday.
Gorman was from Shiprock and Thompson was from Church Rock, according to Indian Center records.
Police could not at first identify the victims because they were “unrecognizable” due to the injuries to their faces, said Simon Drobik, an Albuquerque police spokesman.
The complaint also said that both victims faces were caked with dirt when they were discovered.
Details of Gorman’s death shook the town of Shiprock on Tuesday, said Duane “Chili” Yazzie, president of the Shiprock chapter. He said the description of the attack brought back memories of past beatings of indigent Navajo men in border towns, including the 1974 case in which three Farmington teenagers kidnapped, tortured and killed three Navajo men.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of frustration and anger,” Yazzie said Tuesday. “One could readily conclude that this is evidence that racism is alive and well.”
Yazzie said he didn’t know Gorman or know if his family still lives in the Shiprock area.
Lauren Bernally, the interim director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, said the commission wants to meet with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry to discuss the incident.
She said the commission also plans to investigate the case and speak with Navajo indigent people who live in Albuquerque to see if they have been attacked.
“We would expect the city of Albuquerque to take proactive measures to ensure justice is done, and initiatives be taken to try to prevent further occurrences,” Yazzie said.
Tafoya allegedly told police that he and his friends had attacked dozens of homeless people in Albuquerque in the last year, though Drobik said Tuesday police haven’t found evidence to link the teens to additional beatings.
Rios is an adult and Carrillo and Tafoya will be tried as serious youthful offenders, which are 15-, 16-, or 17-year-old suspects who are facing first-degree murder charges. Convicting a serious youthful offender of first-degree murder can result in a life sentence.
“They are treated as adults,” District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said at a news conference Tuesday. “By the nature of the charge and their age, they can be tried as adults.”
Brandenburg said a judge could reduce the sentence of a serious youthful offender convicted of first-degree murder but not an adult, who gets a mandatory life sentence and must serve a minimum of 30 years.
Brandenburg said the teens’ parents are not likely to face any charges.
“You have to have a criminal intent or a frame of mind and then you have to commit an act,” Brandenburg said. “I think it would be really hard for us to prove the parents knew this is what their kids were doing and supported it or encouraged them to do this. And we would almost have to bear that burden of proof.”
None of the three teenagers had prior convictions for violent felonies.
Rios’ criminal history only included traffic citations. Tafoya had a juvenile arrest for marijuana possession and Carrillo was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of negligent arson, according to juvenile court records.
A police report from 2013 described an incident in which several teenagers, including Rios and Tafoya, were playing basketball when they got into an argument with some adults. The adults then attacked the teens with a crowbar and a pipe, according to the report. Two men and a woman were arrested.
Police last year also interviewed Rios during an investigation into a 9-year-old who said he was sexually abused by Rios and another boy, according to police records.
No arrests were made in the case.
Journal staff writer Rick Nathanson contributed to this report.