Joy Manuel thought it was strange that she hadn’t heard from her son, Thomas, in the days leading up to her wedding on May 23.
Three days later, on a Monday, she heard from Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office detectives: Her 25-year-old son had been found shot dead in the yard of a home in Tijeras. Detectives were looking for the suspect, identified as 35-year-old Charles Jermain Robinson, but they did not know where to look.
Manuel said Tuesday that she was shocked to find nothing in local news media about the alleged murder: No description of events, no photo of the suspect, no appeal from the Sheriff’s Office to the public to try and find Robinson.
“It was never put out that he was being looked for,” Manuel said in a phone interview. “I’m trying to figure out why the delay has happened.”
In fact, the Sheriff’s Office did not send out an alert about Thomas Manuel’s death at all, at least not until the Journal asked BCSO about it a week afterward on May 30. BCSO spokesman Sgt. Aaron Williamson said he was away over the Memorial Day weekend and did not know why no information, including preliminary information about a suspicious death or that deputies were investigating, was released.
Robinson has so far evaded arrest and Manuel believes he has skipped town, taking advantage of the fact that his picture was not broadcast on television or published in the newspaper.
“I’m kind of upset that … this is nowhere to be found,” she said from her home in Lafayette, La.
Williamson said detectives did not want to scare Robinson into hiding by broadcasting his photo right away but said that investigators cleared him to release details about Robinson by the time the Journal contacted him. He also said there’s no way of knowing whether wide release of Robinson’s picture would have helped him be arrested and that the department’s priority, like that of Manuel, is to catch the suspect.
“That’s our primary concern as well to have this individual captured,” Williamson said. “Would this information being released earlier have resulted in his capture? I can’t begin to speculate.”
Williamson said Wednesday that detectives deal with releasing information about suspected murders and other crimes on a case-by-case basis. However, based on a review of recent email alerts sent out by BCSO, the office regularly releases basic information about suspicious deaths and other non-fatal events, even if information is sparse, shortly after such scenes are discovered.
Deputies were called to a home on Filomeno Road in Tijeras around 4:15 a.m. May 23 to find Thomas Manuel’s body in the yard. He had been shot at least once in the torso and was dead when deputies arrived, Williamson said May 30.
He also said that there was some sort of “altercation” between the two men, who he said were friends, but did not have more information, and he said witnesses in the home were still being interviewed about what they might have seen.
Thomas Manuel’s mother said her son is leaving behind a 7-year-old daughter and three siblings. She described him as a loving and energetic son and father, and said his death robbed all joy from her wedding day.
Robinson’s criminal history in New Mexico goes back to at least 2000, when he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He’s been convicted in recent years on a number of charges, including identify theft, battery, embezzlement, aggravated battery and assault on a police officer.
Williamson asked that anyone with information about his whereabouts call the Sheriff’s Office information line at (505) 798-7000.