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Two men, two women, two murders — all with links to Taos area

Slab City, Calif., named for concrete slabs left over from a World War I military base, is where Shalon Gheen, who had previously lived in the Taos area, was killed in April

Slab City, Calif., named for concrete slabs left over from a World War I military base, is where Shalon Gheen, who had previously lived in the Taos area, was killed in April. The off-the-grid community attracts “snowbird” campers to the Sonoran Desert in non-summer months and is also the permanent home to several dozen “slabbers.” (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

SANTA FE – Clayton Vincent Jones allegedly killed two women within three months.

One woman was shot and killed in April during an argument in the Southern California desert. The other is a Marine Corps veteran who was dragged to death in January near Taos. Her body has yet to be found.

Clayton Vincent Jones

JONES: Charged in Gheen’s death

Jones, 40, and 32-year-old Albert Gene Hunsaker, who is listed with a home address in the Carson Estates area west of Taos, allegedly killed Naomi Chaney on her 36th birthday on Jan. 30 by wrapping a winch wire around her neck, then using a Jeep to pull her along the ground in rural Taos County.

Three months later, Jones allegedly shot and killed 39-year-old Shalon Gheen, who, like Chaney, had previously lived in Taos County. That slaying took place at Slab City, a ramshackle, off-the-grid hippie and “snowbird” haven in the Sonoran Desert, 150 miles northeast of San Diego, according to a New Mexico State Police criminal complaint.

It’s unclear how the two murder victims knew each other, but they were “friends” on Facebook.

For the brutal New Mexico killing, Hunsaker was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence on May 26. He’s being held in the Taos County jail with no bond.

Jones, meanwhile, is incarcerated at the Imperial County jail in California for Gheen’s shooting death and has yet to be charged in New Mexico for his alleged role in the Chaney killing, although the Taos district attorney says that will happen.

State Police issued a news release April 11, saying that Chaney, who grew up in Texas, had been missing since Feb. 1 from the Two Peaks area west of Taos, and that family and friends hadn’t heard from her. But investigators learned what had happened to Chaney when they received a phone call from a California detective last month, reportedly from confessions given by both Jones and Hunsaker.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Taos Magistrate Court on May 5, detective John Beltran from California called State Police Agent Jesse Whitaker three days earlier and said Jones, who was being questioned by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly killing Gheen, had started detailing how he and Hunsaker killed Chaney in January.

Jones also drew a map to show where he hid the body.

Albert Gene Hunsaker

HUNSAKER: Held in Taos in connection with Chaney’s killing

On May 4, two days after the California detective’s call, officers from the New Mexico State Police detained Hunsaker at his Carson Estates residence.

Hunsaker told investigators that Jones and Chaney showed up at his house west of Taos on Jan. 30 and wanted him to go drinking with them.

He said he and Chaney were in a sexual relationship, despite Hunsaker’s being married. That night, Hunsaker said, he made Chaney hide from his wife when she approached Jones’ Jeep before Hunsaker, Jones and Chaney drove off.

According to the criminal complaint, Hunsaker said the trio had started drinking near the Peteca riverbed, when Jones suddenly began to beat and choke Chaney.

Police say two men have confessed to killing Naomi Chaney in rural Taos County in January, but her body still hasn’t been found.

Police say two men have confessed to killing Naomi Chaney in rural Taos County in January, but her body still hasn’t been found.

Jones eventually wrapped the winch wire around her neck, told Hunsaker to operate the winch and he drove backward through the sagebrush. They left her body in the sagebrush, according to the complaint. Hunsaker said he had no choice but to assist in the murder, because Jones threatened to kill him and his family if he didn’t.

State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said that a motive for killing Chaney is being investigated.

State Police looked for Chaney’s body after interviewing Hunsaker, but couldn’t find it.

The Highlander newspaper in Marble Falls, Texas, reported that Chaney grew up in Horseshoe Bay, about 53 miles northwest of Austin, and graduated from Marble Falls High School in 1998 before joining the Marine Corps.

Jones, portrayed by Hunsaker as the instigator of Chaney’s murder, hasn’t been charged in New Mexico yet, because he’s behind bars in California for killing Gheen in Slab City on April 29, said Taos District Attorney Donald Gallegos.

Gallegos said he doesn’t want to start the clock on Jones’ speedy trial rights by bringing him to New Mexico now. He said there’s no hurry, since Jones shouldn’t be a danger to the public sitting in the Imperial County jail on a $1 million bond.

“He’s being held in California, so I’m comfortable with that,” Gallegos said.

Slab City killing described

After Gheen’s murder, Slab City resident Cornelius Vango told KYMA-TV of Yuma, Ariz., that she and her friend, identified only as Caveman, tried to break up a fight between Jones and Gheen, who were apparently in a relationship. Vango said Jones turned his aggression toward them and went to his car, grabbed a rifle and started firing at Caveman and Vango. Caveman said he was able to find cover and went back to check on Gheen, who was lying lifeless on the ground.

In this photo posted on murder victim Shalon Gheen’s Facebook page, she poses with Clayton Vincent Jones, who is accused of shooting her to death in Slab City, Calif., in April.

In this photo posted on murder victim Shalon Gheen’s Facebook page, she poses with Clayton Vincent Jones, who is accused of shooting her to death in Slab City, Calif., in April.

“I saw her face, and her little dog was cowering in her lap, and I could tell she was already dead,” Caveman told a KYMA reporter.

Vango said Jones got into his car and drove away, but she followed him in her van and called police. Officers caught Jones a short time later and charged him with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Gheen’s Facebook page says she lived in Española and worked at Pablo’s Creations in Taos, but recent posts suggest she lived in an area known as “The Mesa” west of Taos. It also features a photo of her and Jones together, posed with Jones’ arm around a smiling Gheen.

In an April 26 Facebook post – three days before she was killed – Gheen expressed excitement about being in California. She also started a thread with a friend about when Gheen would return to her home state of Pennsylvania.

“Soon like by next weekend,” Gheen wrote. “My mom is trying to stop me but she can’t. Anyhow Clay says we will and if not I’m getting a bus ticket … but I want Clayton Vincent Jones to meet my daddy.”

 

 

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