Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Cynthia Jaramillo has spent the past 17 years since she escaped from the clutches of David Parker Ray – the man dubbed the “Toy-Box Killer” – trying to piece together a life, raising her three boys in a series of apartments and motels throughout southeast Albuquerque.
Last week, her world fell apart again.
She and her three sons were displaced early Tuesday morning when fire consumed the Desert Sands Motel, where they were staying. On Wednesday morning, her oldest son, 15-year-old Ruben Ruelas, died of a gunshot wound to the head. And, hours later, his 14-year-old brother, Matthew Jaramillo, was arrested and charged with murder in a separate, high-profile case that police had been trying to solve since last week.
They say he admitted running over and dragging a 46-year-old man, Robert Sisneros, to his death the previous week.
Police say the investigation into Ruelas’ death led them to the Mountain View Inn & RV Park, where the Jaramillo family had moved after Tuesday’s fire. While there, police were told that Matthew Jaramillo had been involved in Sisneros’ death.
Matthew Jaramillo is now being held in the Juvenile Detention Center.
Work with victims
In March 1999, Cynthia Jaramillo escaped from a trailer in Elephant Butte wearing a dog collar and chain, telling police that Ray had held her in captivity for three days while he tortured her.
Authorities began investigating Ray after her escape, and he was convicted of kidnapping, torturing and raping her and another woman. He died in prison in 2002.
After reading Ray’s diaries, authorities believe he may have had as many as 40 victims, many of whom could have been murdered, although their bodies haven’t been found.
When investigators searched Ray’s trailer, they found numerous whips, chains and handcuffs, along with photographs of women being tortured. They also found cameras, sex toys and a coffin.
Since then, Cynthia married and separated from her husband, worked various low-wage jobs and had three sons, with a fourth on the way. She has also worked to help other victims of sexual violence, sex trafficking and homelessness by co-founding Street Safe New Mexico. She has met with the FBI about her case and made public appeals for more of Ray’s victims to come forward.
Murder or accident?
Cynthia said her teenage boys, only a little over a year apart in age, liked to do everything together. Ruelas, the outgoing charmer, always looked out for Matthew, his quiet, socially awkward younger brother, she said.
Ruelas’ girlfriend had given birth to a baby girl three months ago, and he was working part-time jobs to help support her. Cynthia said he planned to attend New Futures High School, a school for pregnant and parenting students.
She said that, due to Matthew’s developmental disabilities, he struggled to stay in school, but that, despite her dropping him off in the mornings, he frequently skipped class.
Cynthia said the boys grew up in apartments and motels in southeast Albuquerque, in neighborhoods riddled with drugs and crime. While she held minimum wage jobs, her sons took the bus all over the city, doing odd jobs and selling copper they found in Dumpsters for extra cash.
Cynthia, who is eight months pregnant, said she was in the Mountain View Inn on Central, west of Tramway, on Wednesday morning when Matthew, whom she calls “Mono,” ran in and told her that Ruelas had been shot.
“I don’t remember nothing from that point on,” she said. “He turned, and he was blood-soaked. And I started screaming at everyone around him. I don’t remember Mono jumping into the driver’s seat and driving him to Kaseman.”
Ruelas died at Kaseman Hospital around 10:15 a.m.
Detectives believe Ruelas was shot in the parking lot of Costco on Eubank SE, south of Central, but are still investigating whether it was a homicide or whether Ruelas accidentally shot himself, according to a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department.
Violent crimes detectives arrived at the motel to interview Cynthia and anyone else who had seen the boys in the car.
That’s when two women told them that Matthew had said he had been driving a stolen car when he ran over a man several times. Both women said Matthew told them the car seen on the news was the one he had been driving.
When Matthew returned to the motel, officers put him in the police car for questioning.
Cynthia said the next time she saw him, he was appearing before a judge in Children’s Court.
A missing car
According to a statement of probable cause, Matthew described killing Sisneros.
Matthew, who Cynthia says has significant developmental disabilities, including a frontal lobe defect from a traumatic brain injury, an impulse-control disorder and a pervasive developmental disorder, told police he was driving a stolen purplish Mazda the afternoon of May 20 when he picked up a prostitute on Central Avenue and drove to a parking lot in front of an apartment complex on Virginia near Chico NE.
While Matthew was in the parking lot with the prostitute, Sisneros confronted him and yelled at him to leave, according to the statement of probable cause.
Instead, Matthew told detectives, he drove toward Sisneros, running over him and dragging him down the street. Sisneros was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he died the next morning.
Matthew told detectives that he left the car at the corner of Central and General Arnold SE and that it was gone when he returned. It has still not been found.
Cynthia, who is now staying with her mother-in-law in Cedar Crest, said she’s trying to hold her life together, and is comforted by her 11-year-old son and the thought of her baby, who is due “any day now.”
She said that she plans to see Matthew in the detention center this week and that the family is making funeral arrangements for Ruelas.
“They had so much hardship growing up,” Cynthia said. “They did grow up fast because of that, faster than I would have liked.”