In the minutes after Jacqueline Vigil was shot at close range in her driveway before dawn last November, her assailants sped away from her two-story West Side Albuquerque home so fast they blew a tire on their Jeep Cherokee.
Just around the corner in the darkness – while her husband, paramedics, police and others responded to the crime scene – the alleged shooter and an accomplice in the stranded Jeep realized they had no spare tire.
So they managed to steal a tire from a parked vehicle in the neighborhood, change out the flat, and make their getaway without ever getting caught, according to newly filed criminal complaints.
Only the telltale blown tire remained for Albuquerque police to analyze hours later, and the alleged shooter, Luis Talamantes, feared they would find his fingerprints on it, according to details alleged in federal criminal complaints filed this week in Albuquerque’s U.S. District Court.
To date, neither the Albuquerque Police Department nor federal agents have filed criminal charges in the homicide.
But Talamantes’ two sisters, a nephew and an alleged criminal gang associate are now facing an array of federal charges related to immigration crimes, firearms and drugs, according to criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque. All are being held in federal custody.
Meanwhile, Talamantes, 33, a Mexican national, is awaiting sentencing on illegal re-entry charges in federal court in San Antonio, Texas. He’s been detained since January when Albuquerque police notified ICE in Texas of his suspected involvement in the Vigil homicide. His involvement is alleged in government sentencing documents filed earlier this week in the immigration case.
The scope of the recent federal investigation into Vigil’s death became clearer on Thursday with the filing of the related criminal complaints in Albuquerque.
One complaint states that beginning last month, the Albuquerque FBI violent crimes task force partnered with APD’s homicide unit and the office of Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez to investigate Vigil’s slaying and several “specific violent crimes,” including “a string of firearm-related crimes that occurred in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in and around the time of the homicide.”
The investigation “focuses on firearm-related crimes perpetrated by a group of repeat offenders who are affiliated with a violent southeast Albuquerque gang” known as the Juaritos Maravilla, another complaint states.
Those charged were Talamantes’ sisters, Elizabeth Zamora and Veronica Villela-Romero; both are charged with illegal re-entry. Zamora is also charged with drug and firearms offenses.
Villela-Romero is also accused by Bernalillo County sheriff’s investigators of intimidating a witness in Vigil’s homicide.
Zamora’s son, Ricardo Barron Jr., is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and knowingly leasing, renting, using or maintaining a place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance.
The fourth defendant, Eduardo Aguilar, aka “Lalo,” is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Tire blowout slows getaway
In the criminal complaints against the four, investigators provided additional details about events before and after Vigil was killed, as she sat in her 2006 Cadillac intending to drive to the gym Nov. 19, 2019.
One criminal complaint alleges that Talamantes and another subject, who had earlier attempted to burglarize or steal a Cadillac in a nearby neighborhood, drove up to the Vigil home in the Las Lomitas neighborhood with their Jeep blocking her car from leaving.
“Talamantes approached the driver’s side door and likely tried to open the car door. Because the vehicle was in reverse, the doors were locked and Talamantes could not open the door. For reasons unknown, Talamantes stood just outside J.V.’s driver side window, leveled his pistol at her head, and pulled the trigger. J.V. was struck in the head and succumbed to her wounds,” the complaint states. Her husband, Sam B. Vigil, ran out as the Jeep pulled away. He called 911 after finding his wife slumped over in the driver’s seat.
Meanwhile, “Unbeknownst to Vigil’s husband, or first responders, Luis Talamantes and his associate had a tire blowout as they fled the scene and became disabled a short distance away. Talamantes and his associate stole a tire from a nearby parked vehicle, placed it on Talamantes’ vehicle, and fled the scene,” the complaint states.
Days later, Zamora, who has been deported from the United States to Mexico twice since 2007, is alleged to have helped her brother, Talamantes, flee to San Antonio, Texas, after the fatal shooting. They traveled with another woman. She denied doing so in a recent interview with federal investigators.
But last year, with APD seeking the public’s help in locating the Jeep, Zamora retained an attorney in Albuquerque to contact the APD about turning over the SUV. But before doing so the family had the vehicle cleaned and disinfected to try to remove any evidence of the crime, the affidavit states.
Nevertheless, the APD found bullet casings inside and outside the Jeep that are now entered into evidence in the homicide investigation.
Zamora’s criminal complaint filed this week states that Talamantes was deported to Mexico for the third time in early September 2019, but returned “a few days later” to live with his sisters in Albuquerque.
On Oct. 13, 2019, he and fellow gang member Aguilar are accused of chasing an unidentified man in the Jeep Cherokee after an altercation at an Albuquerque apartment complex.
Aguilar or Talamantes used a pistol to fire several gunshots at the man during the chase, a federal criminal complaint alleges. APD officers who responded recovered a .40 caliber casing that later matched another .40 caliber casing found inside the Jeep Cherokee authorities believe was used in the Vigil homicide.
“Aguilar has not been ruled out as a suspect in that homicide,” states a federal criminal complaint filed Monday. However, the complaint adds that the other gang member involved in the chase, later identified as Talamantes, “is the primary suspect.”
Meanwhile, federal and county sheriff’s investigators contend a witness to the homicide was threatened and assaulted by Villela-Romero in July.
“The witness and his/her young children were injured when (she) ran them off the roadway in Albuquerque. The witness’s vehicle was also damaged,” states the complaint, which adds that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office investigated and subsequently filed felony charges against Villela-Romero that included aggravated battery, child abuse and criminal damage to property.