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Suspect arrested in death of man found dumped in ditch last January

Joseph Gurule, 52 (MDC)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County Sheriff’s detectives say they used DNA evidence from a piece of chewing gum and a blanket to find a suspect in the beating death of a man who was left in a North Valley ditch last January.

Joseph Gurule, 52, was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder and tampering with evidence. He has been booked into the county jail.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, Gurule told detectives he killed 30-year-old Roman Trujillo after Trujillo threatened him and poked him with a gun during a fight at his apartment near Interstate 25 and Central. Gurule said his girlfriend owed Trujillo “an unknown amount of money and was in debt to him over purchasing heroin.”

“Joseph stated he grabbed a nearby weight and struck Roman in the face area up to three times,” a detective wrote in the complaint. “Joseph stated he blacked out and was not sure what happened next. Joseph advised he and (his girlfriend) were scared and wrapped the body in blankets and clothes.”

Trujillo’s body was found wrapped in blankets and tarps and dumped in a ditch off MontaƱo near Edith on Jan. 21. Gurule’s girlfriend died of an overdose in mid-March.

About two and a half weeks after Trujillo was killed, detectives arrested a person of interest in the case, Jeffery Brasher, 26, who was one of the last people to see Trujillo alive. Brasher was charged with receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle, trafficking controlled substances and other crimes. His trial is pending.

But the homicide investigation didn’t get a break until late May when the results of a DNA test came back, concluding that Gurule’s DNA was found on a piece of gum found near the body and one of the blankets he was wrapped in. His girlfriend’s DNA was also found on the blanket.