Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
In the months after a 39-year-old woman from To’hajiilee was found stabbed to death and decapitated in a sandy arroyo in the Four Hills neighborhood, detectives began hearing about a man called “Two Feathers” who may have been involved.
The gruesome crime a couple of days before Christmas in 2017 shook up the Native American and homeless communities, as Audra Willis, a mother of six, split much of her adult life between To’hajiilee and Albuquerque, often depending on family and friends for a place to stay or sleeping on the streets.
Advocates for the homeless said that it underscored the violence the populations face and that the brutality reminded them of an earlier case, in which two Native American homeless men were beaten to death by a trio of teenagers in 2014.
As detectives began investigating, a woman told them Willis had been seen with Two Feathers in the days before she died. Then – in March 2018 – a tip came into Crime Stoppers that inmates at the county jail were saying Two Feathers had killed Willis, according to court documents. Those rumors resurfaced in January 2019.
But it wasn’t until May that detectives got a break in the case.
Early Wednesday, about a year and a half after Willis was killed, Two Feathers – 31-year-old Andrew Garcia – was booked into the county jail on an open count of murder.
His two friends, Eric “Smokey” Emerson, 30, and Damaris Marquez, 33, were arrested and charged with tampering with evidence because police say they disposed of Willis’ body.
“This has been a long and arduous investigation, but the lead detective was persistent and never gave up,” Albuquerque Deputy Police Chief Art Gonzalez said, according to a news release. “Every victim matters. We want justice for Audra Willis.”
‘A very dark sleep’
Court documents indicate it was Marquez’s son who provided the crucial eyewitness account.
The criminal complaints filed in Metropolitan Court last week were sealed due to fears that the suspects would flee or interfere with the investigation, and they have not been unsealed. However, a motion for pretrial detention filed by the District Attorney’s Office lays out some of the evidence in the case.
According to the motion, in May the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told police they had a juvenile who said he was a witness to a homicide in Albuquerque. The motion doesn’t say how old the juvenile is.
During a forensic interview, the juvenile said he was with his sibling and his mother – Marquez – riding around in a truck with Willis and with two men named “Smokey” and “Tooth Feathers.”
He said they stopped at a friend’s house so his mother and Smokey could use the bathroom and he stayed in the truck with Willis and Tooth Feathers.
“(The juvenile) then said he was talking with Audra when he noticed she began gurgling,” according to the motion. “He asked ‘Tooth Feathers’ why she was gurgling and ‘Tooth Feathers’ said she was in a ‘very dark sleep.'”
The juvenile said blood was coming out of Willis’ nose but Tooth Feathers told him she bleeds from her nose when she sleeps. The juvenile said he ran out of the truck and toward his mother in the house.
“(The juvenile) said that when he left the truck, ‘Tooth Feathers’ ‘chopped off the head,’ ” according to the motion. “(The juvenile) then said ‘Smokey’ and ‘Tooth Feathers’ got into a fight outside the truck. ‘Tooth Feathers’ then ran away as ‘Smokey’ yelled at him to not come back.”
It is unclear from the motion when Willis was killed.
However, the juvenile said he, his mother and Smokey drove the truck to where they dumped Willis’ body.
According to the motion, the evidence at the scene corroborated the juvenile’s story.
When detectives talked to his mother, she said her son had told her there was a dead person in the truck. She identified Tooth Feathers as Garcia.
3 arrests in case
Detectives issued arrest warrants for the three suspects on Friday, and on Monday officers in the Southeast Area Command arrested Emerson. Those same officers arrested Garcia on Tuesday, and Marquez was arrested by detectives on Tuesday, according to an APD spokesman. Prosecutors have asked for Garcia and Emerson to be held in jail until trial. They have not filed a motion in Marquez’s case.
Hearings will be held in 2nd Judicial District Court on the pretrial detention motions.
Garcia’s lengthy criminal history is made up mainly of misdemeanors – including shoplifting, battery and criminal trespass – in Gallup, Grants and Albuquerque. Almost all of the prior cases were dismissed by prosecutors.
In a couple of cases, one as recent as July 2018, he was found incompetent to stand trial, according to court documents in the case.
As for Emerson, court documents indicate that hours after Willis’ body was found he was arrested for an armed robbery at a Circle K. According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, Emerson told a store clerk he had a gun and took $30 worth of candy.
All three suspects were in jail Wednesday night.