Journal Staff Writer
What is supposed to be a season filled with love, sharing and compassion turned into a nightmare for one Albuquerque family, when they returned home in mid-December to find their house broken into and their small dog dead.
Their plight would inspire members of the community and Albuquerque police personnel to step up and, in essence, rescue their holiday.
When Gregorio Bazan returned home from his job cleaning floors on the morning of Friday, Dec. 15, the door to his family’s home was wide open, and his wife wasn’t home.
His home near Unser and Arenal had been broken into; a black shoeprint was left on the door and the frame had been demolished.
Inside, the Christmas tree had been toppled and ornaments lay scattered around the tile floor.
The family’s TV, equipment from the garage, and every last Christmas present had been taken from under the tree, leaving the two daughters without any gifts a little more than a week before the big day.
The family’s miniature poodle, Peluchin (Spanish for “Fluffy”), was also missing.
After combing the neighborhood, they found him dead on the sidewalk around a block away.
It’s unclear how he died.
Bazan and his wife, Mara Segura, only speak Spanish, but brother-in-law Scott Daughtry of Albuquerque wrote of their experience in a recent letter to the editor.
“This was an absolutely devastating and demoralizing event, especially during Christmas,” he wrote.
Daughtry’s wife, Lydia, said the family is still struggling to come to terms with what happened.
“We still can’t believe it,” she said. “We grew up being Christians, so we believe everybody is nice.”
Amid the devastation and disappointment, the Albuquerque Police Department and members of the community found a way to shine a light on the family’s all-but-ruined Christmas.
Allison Nodes, an APD crime scene specialist, was dispatched to the home to gather evidence, and she said the family’s story stuck with her.
“It just broke my heart,” she said. “I can’t imagine having that kind of death of a pet around Christmas. So I wanted to do something that would make them maybe think a little bit less about their heartbreak.”
So she asked fellow members of the Crime Scene Investigations Unit for donations to help replace the missing gifts that had been under the tree, including stuffed animals for 11-year-old Adely and gift cards for 19-year-old Ariadna.
“True to her word, she came by just before Christmas with a bag full of Christmas presents,” said Scott Daughtry.
They were also given a voucher for a fee-free pet adoption from one of the city’s shelters, for when the family feels ready to take in another animal.
Nodes said her unit, and other squads within the police department, often look for a family they’ve encountered that can use a bit of help around the holidays.
“A lot of us love our jobs but it’s really hard when you see people and they’re having one of the worst days of their lives,” Nodes said. “It’s nice to be able to do something to kind of ease the burden.”
Meanwhile, customers at Leilani’s NM Restaurant where Lydia works as a waitress had donated around $300 and homeowners whom Segura cleans for gave $2,000.
“She had faith that there were still nice people out there,” Lydia said, translating for Segura.
Lydia said for her, the experience made her grateful for the police force, which she admitted she has been critical of in the past.
“I appreciate what they did for my sister,” she said. “They deserve a lot because they’re out there, they leave their families and they don’t know if they’re going to come back.”
Journal staff writer Katy Barnitz contributed to this report.