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In 2019, Albuquerque police responded to a fight between Nicholas Clinton and Kimberly Mariano at the Imperial Inn. Officers found the couple – both bruised, scratched and “highly intoxicated” – with their young daughter in a room where empty liquor bottles littered the floor.
The parents couldn’t explain how the child got a cut on her arm and “out of severe concern for her well-being” she was placed on a 48-hour hold with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.
Flash forward several years, and several CYFD contacts later, when authorities issued an Amber Alert for the girl after an inebriated Clinton showed up to a homeless shelter without her Monday night.
Officers found the 5-year-old on Tuesday morning riding a city bus with a woman in Southeast Albuquerque.
Clinton, 36, was arrested on misdemeanor charges and later released from jail after allegedly losing his temper and almost attacking an officer as police questioned him while his daughter was still missing. During the ordeal, according to police, Clinton was not able to tell officials what happened or where he last saw his daughter.
At one point Clinton balled his fists and lunged at an officer and “a use of force occurred,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. Police said Clinton was detained and had slurred speech, watery eyes and smelled of alcohol.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said the child was found around 9 a.m. on the bus with a woman near Central and Girard.
He said the woman the girl was with has been detained “on a felony warrant unrelated to this incident.”
Gallegos said the girl was put on a 48-hour hold, her third documented CYFD hold, and has been reunited with an out-of-state relative. The pair was given a hotel room.
He said detectives are working with prosecutors to decide proper charges against Clinton for neglect and are “conducting additional interviews to verify details about the child’s whereabouts through the night.”
Mariano told the Journal on Tuesday she’s glad her daughter is safe.
She said she and Clinton have been homeless for months and share custody of the girl, who stays with them at separate shelters. Mariano said Clinton had been drinking Monday and was supposed to take a bus to the shelter with the child to “sleep it off.”
“He left me a voicemail saying our daughter might have gotten taken. Little did he know he ended up losing her or left her behind somewhere,” she said.
Mariano said on Tuesday morning she learned someone found her daughter on a city bus.
“It was a scary situation,” she said.
For the girl, it was more of the same – a footnote to years of chaos and instability in her young life.
Since 2018 she had been caught in the middle of her parents’ violent and intoxicated fights, according to court records. In a July incident, the girl hit her father with a stick “in an attempt to save her mother” as he choked Mariano in a hotel room.
The incidents happened at motel rooms, homeless shelters and in the streets.
Clinton has been charged in four of the domestic violence incidents and Mariano has been charged in three – including one in which the couple allegedly brought their daughter along to buy methamphetamine.
All of those cases but one were eventually dismissed by prosecutors.
Lauren Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said that was because either Clinton or Mariano did not want to cooperate.
She said in the meth deal case the evidence didn’t support charging Mariano with intentionally placing a child in a dangerous situation.
Most recently, Mariano was arrested on Sept. 26 after beating up Clinton in front of the girl at the Railyard Park in Santa Fe, according to court records. The couple were both heavily intoxicated, and Clinton told police they drank before taking the Rail Runner to Santa Fe “to visit for the day.”
The incident resulted in a probation violation for Mariano, who had been sentenced to probation in 2019 for trying to sneak hundreds of suboxone strips to an inmate at the Santa Rosa state prison.
In the violation report, an officer noted that Mariano had previously said she and Clinton were no longer in a relationship due to him “beating on her again.”
The first documented domestic incident between the couple was in July 2018 when Mariano allegedly scratched and beat Clinton at a park in the South Valley. Police said the couple was “very intoxicated” and with their daughter, who was 14 months old.
The incident set the tone for those to come.
From May to July this year, local authorities responded to three separate incidents where Clinton reportedly attacked Mariano.
On June 4 officers responded to Joy Junction and found the front door to an apartment broken and a bruised Mariano crying inside, according to court records. The girl was also hit by a pillow thrown by Clinton after he slapped Mariano repeatedly.
Court records show CYFD was contacted, a judge issued an emergency restraining order against Clinton and Mariano was given a domestic violence packet.
In the phone call Tuesday, Mariano alluded to her own issues.
She said she is trying to find a job and a place to live to raise her daughter.
“At this point, right now, I’m just trying to get myself together for her … to move forward instead of falling back in the same situation again,” Mariano said. “I want to show her that I’m able to.”