ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Whoever stole a black Chevy Trailblazer towing a U-Haul trailer from the Residence Inn near Yale and Gibson SE early Monday was in for a surprise.
When the thieves opened the trailer and flipped over a cardboard box, there were no valuables. Underneath was a man's body.
Family members had been driving their relative’s remains from Oklahoma to be buried in Kirtland when they stopped at the Residence Inn in Albuquerque on Sunday night.
Around 4:30 a.m. Monday, a hotel employee noticed what he thought was a vehicle theft and called police. He said the thief or thieves drove a red Chevy Silverado pickup, but officers didn’t have much to go on until they got a phone call from one of the victims.
“Clearly, his wife was extremely emotional, as her father’s body had just been stolen,” Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier said. “We immediately started allocating resources to try to find this vehicle, not only because it’s just a heart-wrenching story, but also you’re going to have the biosafety factors of having an unaccounted-for dead body.”
Tixier said it is legal to transport bodies with a proper permit.
A couple of hours later, officers found the SUV and attached trailer, with the remains still inside, near the Puerto del Sol golf course at Gibson and Girard SE.
The thieves had long since fled. But it may not take long for authorities to crack the case. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Felicia Maggard said three people were arrested after a stolen red Chevy Silverado pickup truck nearly crashed into an unmarked police vehicle near Interstate 25 and Avenida César Chávez around 9:30 a.m.
The driver, 26-year-old Jeremy Soliz, was arrested on numerous felony charges, including possession of burglary tools. Two other people, 22-year-old Anthony Serna and 22-year-old Daniel Gonzales, were arrested for felony warrants.
That case is connected to the U-Haul theft, though authorities haven’t elaborated on how and no charges had been filed Monday.
Tixier said police are still investigating and were happy they found the stolen SUV and trailer.
“Auto theft is an issue in this town, but this one really shook a lot of people up,” he said.