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FBI search nets fugitive – and so much more

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Jeyden Barnhill

Jeyden Barnhill took off from a federally approved halfway house on April 2 with a heroin habit, a slate of pending charges, including aiding and abetting armed robbery, and a history of running from the law.

The 11-day hunt for the 24-year-old, which led the FBI to search an alleged “druggie house” in Albuquerque, netted more than just her capture.

By the time Barnhill was picked up Saturday, law enforcement agents looking for her had also arrested two men on felony charges, snagged a fugitive from Arkansas, seized two stolen motorcycles and recovered a $70,000 2019 Super Duty truck purchased last month from a Ford dealer for a $2,000 down payment and a fraudulent loan application, according to newly unsealed federal records.

Barnhill had been allowed pretrial release at the halfway house April 1, even though federal prosecutors wanted her jailed as a flight risk.

On April 13, after being cornered by flashing FBI vehicles, Barnhill once again didn’t give up without a chase.

Two agents tackled her after she fled on foot from the 2019 Ford Super Duty truck, which the FBI team had stopped near San Jacinto Avenue NE and Morris Street NE.

Barnhill was back in U.S. Magistrate Court on Thursday, in chains, and this time opted not to seek release from jail pending further proceedings. An FBI spokesman said that in addition to the earlier federal criminal charges, Barnhill now faces a pre-trial release violation for absconding from the halfway house. A spokesman said it did not appear she had racked up any new charges while on the lam.

Crime spree

Barnhill, and her husband Jared Barnhill, were arrested March 29 along with about 30 others as part of “Operation Blockbuster,” a joint FBI-New Mexico State Police violent crime takedown operation near Albuquerque’s International District.

She is linked to a two-month crime spree in Albuquerque last summer, including armed robberies, burglaries, vehicle thefts and a carjacking. She and her husband are alleged to have committed the crimes while free on pretrial release on earlier state criminal charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is being held in state custody.

After the March 29 bust, Jeyden Barnhill was charged federally with aiding and abetting armed robbery, conspiracy, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a controlled substance. State records show she twice escaped from the Albuquerque Police Department. Her husband and another man are facing federal charges that include carjacking.

On April 1, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing agreed with a defense request to allow Barnhill – the mother of a six-year-old daughter – to live at the La Pasada halfway house, a non-secure facility where defendants can work or go to school pending trial on the federal charges.

The next day, at the sound of a honking vehicle horn, Jeyden Barnhill walked out of the halfway house into a waiting red truck and absconded. Fashing issued an “emergency warrant” for her arrest.

FBI agents traced calls to her cellphone near the time of her departure to a man identified as Rain Orlando Aranaga, who was wanted on felony arrest warrant in Arkansas for parole and probation violations. He also had an outstanding aggravated assault warrant from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

Agents tracked Aranaga’s cellphone to a house near Lomas and San Mateo, which was described by an employee from a nearby business as a “druggie house” where people inside “were up to no good.” Another employee reported finding used needles in an alley near the house. They weren’t identified in the search warrant request and told agents they didn’t want to be witnesses because they feared retaliation.

Executing the search warrant at the house April 12, a team from the FBI, State Police and Albuquerque Police Department found Aranaga, 28, and also arrested Sean Steven McMurray, 47, on heroin possession. They recovered a stolen Harley Davidson motorcycle and a Yamaha 4-wheeler.

But not Jeyden Barnhill.

“Information developed at the scene indicated Jeyden Barnhill was strung out on heroin, knew FBI agents were searching for her and was using multiple cellular telephones to avoid detection,” according to a federal criminal complaint.

By the next day, authorities learned Jeyden Barnhill had taken up with another man, identified as Ernie Ortiz. He was driving the Ford Super Duty truck when stopped by law enforcement agents. Barnhill was in the passenger seat.

Three weeks earlier, Ortiz used the fake name of Michael Brennan and a Georgia driver’s license in that name to buy the expensive truck for $2,000 down and a signed a loan with Don Chalmers Ford in Rio Rancho. The dealership had reported the fraudulent purchase to the Rio Rancho Police Department.

Ortiz is in federal custody, charged with harboring a fugitive and aggravated identity theft, and possession of methamphetamine.

Ortiz told the FBI on April 13 that he had met Barnhill a week before, and she told him she fled from the halfway house and with her husband, had “been charged with a bunch of robberies.”

He told agents he and Barnhill “were currently homeless.” A member of California street gang, Ortiz said he felt sorry for Jeyden.

Inside the truck, agents found methamphetamine and suspected heroin on a metal spoon, which Ortiz said belonged to Barnhill.

And a police lightbar, with multiple red and blue lights, was on the rear floorboard.

“The light bar was the type used in unmarked law enforcement vehicles and powered via dashboard cigarette lighter,” stated Ortiz’s criminal complaint.

Frank A. Fisher, of the FBI, said the Super Duty truck has since been returned to the dealership.

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