Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
ROSWELL – On Thursday, Cynthia Villegas told her brother that she’d asked her husband for a divorce, according to court documents.
On Saturday night, Villegas and the couple’s four daughters were found shot to death in the family’s Roswell home. And on Monday, her husband, Juan Villegas-Hernandez, 34, was charged with five counts of murder in connection to the killings.
Villegas-Hernandez, a Mexican national, fled Roswell and was apprehended Sunday about 500 miles away at a home in Arizpe, Sonora, in Mexico.
A criminal complaint filed in Chaves County Magistrate Court paints a picture of a struggling marriage – an unhappy and unemployed husband worried about infidelity and a wife in fear of a man who had become controlling and threatening.
Police were called to the Villegas home, in the 2300 block of Davis Avenue, just after 11 p.m. Saturday.
There, they met with a 12-year-old girl – a cousin of the young victims – with blood and multiple cuts on her body from climbing through a window to check on the Villegas family. Police said she and her mother went to her aunt’s and uncle’s home because they were concerned. They found the family’s van in the driveway, but no one answered the door. The girl climbed through a window that she knew had been broken for a long time. Inside, she saw feet on the floor. Believing correctly that someone was dead, she scrambled to climb back out the window, cutting herself on broken glass in the process, police said.
A Roswell police officer entered the home through the same bedroom window and found Villegas, 34, dead inside. The bodies of four girls, Yamilen, 14; Cynthia Janeth, 11; Abby, 7; and Ida, 3, were also located in the home, according to the complaint. A Roswell police spokesman said the youngest girls were called Abby and Ida.
An employee with the Office of the Medical Investigator told police that Cynthia Villegas had been shot in the face. Yamilen had been shot in the forehead. Cynthia Janet had a gunshot wound to the back of her head. Abby had gunshot wounds to her head and chest. Ida had a gunshot wound to the head.
In total, investigators found 10 spent .22 caliber shells in the home along with a large amount of blood and a pillow near a room in which the three youngest girls were found in a bed. Police said it’s not clear who was injured there. Villegas was found in a second bedroom, and the eldest daughter in a third.
As police found body after body in the family’s north Roswell home, they also found a note written in Spanish on a closet door in black permanent marker, according to the complaint.
A Spanish-speaking officer translated:
“This wasn’t the solution but my kids and I were suffering greatly. Cynthia did not want anything to do with us and I can’t stand to watch my kids suffer. She treats us bad. Forgive me everyone I will also kill myself.”
A relative who stopped by the family’s home Monday told the Journal that Villegas-Hernandez attempted to kill himself after fleeing to Mexico.
“He tried to commit suicide, he cut his throat,” she said. “The cops have him but he’s in critical condition right now.”
Victor Felix, of Sonora state police, said Villegas-Hernandez threatened to kill himself and took out a knife when officers had him surrounded, according to the Associated Press.
A Roswell police spokesman confirmed that Villegas-Hernandez had been or still was hospitalized, though he did not know why or what condition he might be in.
The complaint details behavior by Villegas-Hernandez in days leading up to the shooting that left family members concerned.
A relative told police that Cynthia Villegas was afraid of her husband. She reportedly told the relative that “if anything happened to her, Mr. Villegas(-Hernandez) had done something to her,” police said.
According to the complaint, Cynthia told the relative that her husband believed she was cheating on him. Cynthia told her that Villegas-Hernandez had a “machismo” attitude and had threatened her in the past.
Cynthia’s brother Lorenzo Rosales said his sister told him on Thursday that she’d asked her husband for a divorce “because of the abuse she has endured from him,” according to the complaint. Rosales said that the same day, Villegas-Hernandez told him he would “just kill (his) sister,” a statement that Rosales said he didn’t take seriously.
Concerned after hearing that Villegas-Hernandez told a family member Friday that he was going to kill himself, the girls’ grandmother went to the Villegas home Saturday afternoon to check on the family, police said. She found Villegas-Hernandez “speaking nonsense” and refusing to let her inside and attempting to close the door when she tried to walk in, according to the complaint. The grandmother said she contacted police, though it’s not clear whether they responded at that point.
It was several hours later when a group of relatives returned to the home and the 12-year-old girl climbed through the broken window.
The relative who spoke to the Journal on Monday said her family is devastated.
“We don’t understand like what went through his mind to do something like that to his own daughters,” she said. “He was loving to them. Like, I don’t understand.”
She said Cynthia Villegas worked at a local hospital. She was beautiful, always smiling. Her daughters were beautiful, too. And Villegas-Hernandez was a loving father.
“I want people to know that he wasn’t a bad person,” she said. “Nothing justifies what he did. But he wasn’t a bad person.”
Roswell Police spokesman Todd Wildermuth said officers are thankful Villegas-Hernandez is in custody, but the extradition process may take weeks.
“It’s a big relief to know that he’s in custody, we don’t have to be chasing him anymore,” he said. “Now we have a new challenge of trying to get him back into the United States so we can carry out the judicial process here.”
Wildermuth said police knew that Villegas-Hernandez often traveled to Mexico. Later, police in Arispe found him at a residence there and took him into custody.
Earlier, a Ruidoso police officer driving outside of her jurisdiction had stopped Villegas-Hernandez at 4:45 p.m. Saturday as he traveled well above the speed limit on westbound Highway 70. She recognized that the vehicle, which was unable to maintain its lane, matched the description of the one Roswell police were looking for, except the first letter in the license plate number was different, according to the complaint.
Villegas-Hernandez told her he was headed to Alamogordo to visit a friend. It is not clear whether he was cited or why he was not arrested.
Wildermuth said that for now, the department is working with authorities in Mexico along with the U.S. Consulate to get the documents to police in Arizpe that will allow them to hold the suspect as Roswell police begin the extradition process.
Felix said Villegas-Hernandez has dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico, according to the Associated Press, so he must be extradited and cannot be deported.
A happy family
By Monday morning, a rubber glove and small piece of police tape were all that remained of the police scene that took over a section of the working class-neighborhood late Saturday and into Sunday morning. One neighbor said the family moved to the quiet dead-end street about eight years ago.
Children’s bikes and a red minivan sat outside of the Villegas’ modest brick home.
Neighbors said they never saw any signs that the Villegas family was anything but happy and that they often saw the girls playing outside of the home.
“I never saw any signs of strife or discord,” neighbor John Whann said. He’d never even seen the police at the family’s home.
Wildermuth confirmed the department had “not dealt with (Villegas-Hernandez) very much if at all.”
Whann said he saw the large police presence along with a large group of family outside hugging and crying Sunday morning.
“I was hoping it wasn’t the little girls,” he said.
A family member said that a candlelight vigil is being planned for Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to reflect the new name spelling of the Villegas children provided by the Roswell Police Department.