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Just weeks after being deported to Mexico in September, Luis Talamantes was back in the United States and embarked on a two-month crime spree that ended with the death of Albuquerque resident Jacqueline Vigil, new federal records allege.
The mother of two New Mexico State Police officers was shot to death in her car the morning of Nov. 19, 2019, as she tried to leave home for the gym.
Vigil’s slaying became Albuquerque’s highest profile unsolved homicide. Just recently, it drew the attention of President Donald Trump during a nationally televised appearance.
Talamantes was publicly identified as the primary suspect in Vigil’s death in federal court records filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Texas. The documents detail the work of an FBI-led multiagency task force that began investigating the case a few weeks ago under the new federal violent crime crackdown Operation Legend.
The FBI declaration says that its information was obtained from multiple sources, including Albuquerque police homicide detectives and special agents with the District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque.
Talamantes, 33, has been in federal custody in Texas since late January on a felony immigration charge for repeat (fourth) illegal reentry into the United States from Mexico.
After Vigil’s death, Talamantes fled New Mexico and was picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in San Antonio after the Albuquerque Police Department received a number of Crime Stoppers tips, according to the government filings.
He has not been charged either by state or federal prosecutors in Albuquerque with crimes related to Vigil’s death. A federal public defender who represents him couldn’t be reached Wednesday.
The federal documents were filed in the immigration case against Talamantes, and set forth in excruciating detail his alleged role in Vigil’s slaying and other crimes. They show Talamantes has a long rap sheet and has served time in both state and federal prison.
“No prior sentence has ever served to deter Defendant from immediately jumping right back into his life of violent gang activity, stealing and selling firearms, and shooting guns on the streets of Albuquerque. Tragically, this time, Defendant’s selfish, debased decisions cost J.V. her life,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and New Mexico federal prosecutors.
A declaration filed in the case by the task force coordinator, Albuquerque FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee, alluded to the possible motive – that Vigil got in the way of an attempted theft.
“On this particular morning, J.V. suffered the tragic misfortune of opening her garage door and backing her car onto her driveway at the same time defendant was lurking nearby as he was looking for items to steal,” Acee wrote in his 18-page filing.
Talamantes has been identified as a member of Juaritos Maravilla, a street gang operating in Albuquerque.
Bullet casing found
According to Acee’s declaration, the evidence in the case includes witness statements and ballistics that matched a bullet casing from the scene of the homicide to a casing found days later outside Talamantes’ Jeep Cherokee. And there were several recorded phone calls.
For instance, Talamantes “confessed” to an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center later the day of the killing, according to the FBI declaration.
Talamantes told the jail inmate over the phone that he “had messed up and what happened was not supposed to happen.” He also allegedly confessed to someone else, saying he had “blacked out” during the incident and was going to San Antonio, Texas, to “lay low.”
The inmate, who may have seen a news story about the slaying on a television at MDC, later called his own brother and expressed concern “that everybody was going to be in trouble and suffer for the dumb things that someone else did.” The inmate “went on to say Defendant should have just stayed in Juarez, because he was doing dumb things.”
Talamantes was about to be sentenced for the illegal reentry on Aug. 11 when federal prosecutors sought a continuance because of new evidence that had emerged.
That new evidence had everything to do with the Vigil shooting, but according to the court documents criminal activity was nothing new for Talamantes.
His rap sheet includes arrests in Colorado and Albuquerque for domestic violence, criminal damage to property, aggravated stalking, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, receiving stolen property, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building and commercial burglary, with convictions dating back to at least 2006. Talamantes, the documents say, served four years in New Mexico state prison and 51 months in federal prison.
Talamantes had been deported or removed for the third time to his home country of Mexico on Sept. 5, 2019.
“Of course, any hopes that the defendant’s third deportation would quell his violent criminal activity in the United States were swiftly destroyed less than three months later when he killed J.V.,” the government’s sentencing memorandum says.
Based on his criminal history, Talamantes would face a sentence ranging from about 51 to 63 months in prison for illegal reentry.
The government is asking the judge to deviate from sentencing guidelines and impose a stiffer sentence of 20 years in prison in light of the Vigil homicide. Talamantes’ sentencing has been postponed until next month.
A spokeswoman for the office of District Attorney Raúl Torrez in Albuquerque told the Journal, “While I cannot comment on the specific work done in support of an ongoing investigation, I can confirm that the District Attorney’s Office has been working with its state and federal partners for several months.
“The investigation into Mrs. Vigil’s homicide is still underway, but we do anticipate filing charges against Mr. Talamantes, among others, once it is concluded and formally submitted to our office.”
Meanwhile, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller issued a statement Wednesday supporting the APD’s investigation into the fatal shooting. Keller said that the suspect was “identified and arrested as a result of the work of APD homicide detectives long before Operation Legend and the U.S. Attorney got involved.”
“For many months, we have been aware that we were making real progress on the case but couldn’t comment publicly, or push back on a lot of myths being said about our police department,” Keller said.
Federal prosecutors described Vigil as “an entirely innocent victim, who had stepped just outside of her own home, when the defendant callously took her life.”
The FBI declaration says that hours before Vigil’s death, a couple of miles away from Vigil’s home, which was off Unser north of Interstate 40, someone called 911 to report two Hispanic men were breaking into his Cadillac.
He confronted them from his balcony, but backed away when he saw one of the men retrieve a pistol. Surveillance video APD later retrieved depicted the men driving in a Jeep Cherokee with a distinctive right front quarter panel.
Later that morning, Vigil was leaving her garage in a Cadillac sedan when she apparently noticed an SUV parked on the street behind her, blocking her exit. She hit the car’s horn, alerting her husband, Sam Vigil, who was in the house. By the time he came outside, he saw the vehicle speeding away and found his wife of 18 years fatally wounded. Outside the garage, there was another family Cadillac parked, Vigil told the Journal on Wednesday.
APD Crime Stoppers subsequently used the photos of the Jeep taken in the earlier surveillance video to solicit information about Vigil’s fatal shooting.
On Nov. 25, APD received the first of at least seven tips from citizens reporting Talamantes, or one of his aliases, was the shooter who was an active gang member and a car thief. By Jan. 16, a tipster reported that Talamantes, aka “Pelon,” had been out committing robberies, went to Vigil’s house in his Jeep and shot her at close range. The tipster provided a specific address in San Antonio, where he was arrested five days later.
Authorities found numerous photos of Talamantes and his firearms posted on his social media website.
After Talamantes was deported in September, his blood was found inside a Ford pickup truck parked at a Hyatt hotel that had been broken into and at least one weapon stolen. In October, Talamantes was identified as being the driver of a car that rammed another vehicle and fired shots at or near the vehicle, according to the federal documents filed Wednesday.