Marine veteran Matthew Gurule survived two tours of duty – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – only to come home to his father’s hometown to be killed.
“Here in your town, a place he wanted to call his hometown,” said his mother, Sandra Miller, through tears Saturday morning.
Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil said the body of a man was found along a ditchbank west of N.M. 304 south of Belen Friday night. The Office of the Medical Investigator positively identified the body as that of 32-year-old Gurule early Saturday.
An arrest warrant for Francisco Gomez, 37, of Los Lunas, has been issued on an open count of murder and multiple other charges, Vigil said.
Gomez, along with his girlfriend, Jeannine Willard, 45, of Adelino, were arrested and booked into jail on Aug. 10 after police said they fraudulently used Gurule’s credit card. Gomez is still in custody at the Valencia County jail.
The couple used Gomez’s card at several stores in Belen on July 27, racking up several hundred dollars in charges, according to a criminal complaint.
Gurule’s car was found on fire shortly after noon that same day east of Belen off Manzano Expressway. When questioned by police, Gomez said he found the card on the side of the road in the same area, according to the complaint.
“At this time, evidence led to only this individual being charged. There may be other individuals who will face other charges,” Vigil said. “This has been a trying case for all the agencies involved and our community.”
Gurule was last seen alive at the Isleta Resort and Casino on July 27, a Saturday. He called Miller, who lives in Texas, at about 12:30 a.m., saying he was being asked to leave the casino. That was the last time anyone heard from him.
By the following Monday, his family grew alarmed and contacted the Belen Police Department, filing a missing persons report.
“I don’t want his death to be in vain,” Miller told reporters Saturday afternoon. “There needs to be changes in this community. In my heart of hearts, I know God is a just God and justice will prevail.”