Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
ESPAÑOLA – Authorities have a possible suspect in custody in the disappearance of a 5-year-old girl, the FBI and Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office announced during a joint news conference Monday afternoon.
The name of the man was not revealed, although authorities did say he was being held on three outstanding warrants out of Bernalillo County. He was arrested Sunday night by Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office personnel, Sheriff James Lujan said.
Meanwhile, an extensive search was underway for Renezmae Calzada, who was last seen playing outside her Española home near McCurdy Road and Tesuque Lane around 9:45 a.m. Sunday.
“We’re pretty sure it wasn’t a parental abduction,” said Lujan.
Renezmae was reported missing by her mother about 6 p.m. Sunday, authorities said. The delay between when she was last seen and when she was reported missing is part of “an ongoing investigation,” according to the sheriff.
An Amber Alert hit cellphones hours later, around 10:45 p.m. Lujan said it took some time to investigate the case and for the mother to seek information from other family members before information was provided to the State Police for the Amber Alert.
Numerous law enforcement agencies were looking for the girl Monday, including with a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
They were joined by relatives of Renezmae, search and rescue teams and other civilian volunteers who were scouring the Española area.
“Anytime a 5-year-old is missing, we’re going to assume she’s in danger,” Lujan said.
Shortly before 3 p.m. Monday, members of the girl’s immediate and extended family had gathered with other people on El Llano Road north of Española High School to begin a search of the open country of mostly bare hills and gullies east of town.
The group had numerous private all-terrain vehicles, and Española Fire Department ATVs were also being used. Several people just took off walking through the brush close to the road, then over a hill into the brown landscape.
A woman was shouting instructions to others about where to look or head next. No one in the group wanted to talk to a couple of reporters who happened on the search party. “They asked us not to,” one woman said.
Pablo Montoya of the Fire Department said the group was “just doing kind of a search from some information gathered from the family.” Montoya added that authorities otherwise had no details suggesting a specific area to look for the missing girl.
James Langenberg, chief of the FBI’s New Mexico division, said at an afternoon news conference that the FBI had sent “scores” of agents and other personnel, including specialists in evidence response, behavioral analysis and tracking social media to Española to assist in the case.
The FBI “is committed to staying here as long as it takes to find Renezmae,” he said.
“We will follow every single lead and we will leave no stone unturned to bring her back home,” he added.
Langenberg said it was not unusual for the FBI to get involved in an Amber Alert disappearance. “We reached out to the sheriff’s office and offered our assistance,” he said.
Albuquerque FBI spokesman Frank Fisher, asked later whether the FBI’s participation in the case was connected to federal jurisdiction on Indian land – Española is abutted by Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh pueblos – said, “That’s not the main reason. The main reason we’re here is for law enforcement assistance.”
“We don’t wait for people to cross state lines like in the old days,” Fisher said. He also said it would be “premature” to identify the possible suspect who is in custody.
The Red Cross was also part the search effort, providing food and water for searchers from a base at the Ohkay Owingeh casino. The Red Cross said in a news release that it was also assisting family members “directly involved with this ongoing missing person case.”
Renezmae was last seen wearing blue shorts with stars and a Disney “Frozen” shirt. She is described as 4 feet tall and 35 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information that may help investigators is asked to call 505-753-5555. Authorities encouraged residents in the area where Renezmae disappeared to check home surveillance camera video for anything unusual.