ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The “skinhead” police accuse of killing two people in a home in the Northeast Heights on Tuesday already served years in prison for the brutal, high-profile attack of a young Albuquerque man on Halloween night in 1996.
Police arrested Brian Pulliam, 38, early Thursday morning, saying he killed his ex-girlfriend and her nephew — 36-year-old Kirsten Landeau and 20-year-old Dillon Cearfoss — the day after she broke up with him.
Pulliam is a self-proclaimed member of the Aryan Nations gang and has a long and violent criminal history, police said at a news conference Thursday. That history includes the ambush and near fatal beating of Bryan Patterson, then 28, by Pulliam and an undetermined number of “skinhead” gang members Downtown. Patterson was in a coma for 53 days and has suffered lasting brain damage from the attack. Pulliam was sentenced to between four and six years in prison for his part in the assault. The gang never gave a motive for the ambush.
Patterson told the Journal in a phone interview Thursday that he has hoped for the last 16 years that his assailants recognized the pain they caused him and chose better lives for themselves.
“I hoped they would find a better path,” Patterson said. “What Brian Pulliam is accused of — that’s just sad beyond rationale.”
Pulliam was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the killings after a short standoff in a home in the North Valley near 12th and Candelaria NW.
Police said in a criminal complaint that Pulliam owned a gun and that an “ax or hatchet” was found near Landeau’s body, but they didn’t release the victims’ cause of death pending an autopsy.
Longtime family friend Eric Ward said Wednesday that the two victims were not shot.
Pulliam was in prison for a probation violation until November, and that’s about the time he and Landeau started dating, Ward said.
Various police interviews with family members described “constant” fighting between Landeau and Pulliam, and they alleged in the criminal complaint that Pulliam beat her.
One of Pulliam’s friends, Margaret Gandy, told police that Pulliam borrowed her car a month ago to spy on Landeau because he suspected her of cheating, according to the complaint.
Friends and family of Landeau — a model and mother of two boys — said she changed after she started dating Pulliam. She went to fewer heavy metal concerts and stopped visiting with the many friends who adored her, friends said.
“She started going out with Brian … and it seemed like she disappeared off the map for a bit,” said friend Tommy Rapisardi. “He … watched every move I made when I was talking to her.”
Friends said they were surprised she would date Pulliam because she was supportive of all lifestyles and often criticized those who were less tolerant. Her nephew, Cearfoss was a heavy metal fan like his aunt and a student at Central New Mexico Community College.
For his part, Patterson said he doesn’t remember anything from the night of the attack 16 years ago.
Dressed in a knight’s costume, Patterson was headed to his car after celebrating Halloween Downtown when the gang attacked, beating and kicking him, shearing his brain stem.
Journal columnist Jim Belshaw chronicled Patterson’s case and his struggle for normalcy.
On Thursday, Patterson compared Pulliam with another of his attackers, who he ran into at a bank several years ago as that man was depositing money to an account to aid Patterson.
“Things changed for him, and he said he was sorry,” Patterson said of the man, whom he declined to name. “I told him the best apology he could give me was to be a man, be productive, be a member of society.
“He didn’t go down the path that Brian Pulliam went down. He has a job, has a family. He tries to live a life.”
Doctors described Patterson’s recovery from the attack as “miraculous,” but the miracle only took him so far. He got a master’s degree in public health from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in 2009, but the economy went “into the Dumpster” shortly after, and he has only been able to find part-time work with the state Brain Injury Advisory Council.
He had to learn how to walk and talk again, and divorced shortly after the attack. He said he had to confront the “new normal” of life with a brain injury, and it took a decade before he stopped wishing he’d been killed in that Downtown alley.
“I can honestly say I’m happy now that I survived,” he said. “For the longest time I couldn’t say that.”