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Death Tied To Mexican Cartel

By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
          The Mexican drug cartel wars that have left a trail of bodies in their wake have moved north to Albuquerque, authorities said.
        One of the cartels with ties to Ciudad Juarez was "sending a message" with the death of Danny Baca, who was found shot 22 times with an assault rifle, burned and left in the middle of a far West Mesa roadway in January 2008.
        Baca, 54, was supposed to bring a load of drugs across the border for a smuggling cartel, meet a connection in El Paso and go from there, according to authorities.
        Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said Baca "signed his own death warrant" when he and another man decided to bypass El Paso and bring the drugs to Albuquerque.
        "They wanted to make sure everybody knew you don't mess with the cartel," White said Friday. "This was a very clear message they were sending."
        Bernalillo County detectives have been working the case for more than 13 months, Sgt. Mark Kmatz said, trying to piece together the events that led to Baca's death.
        One man is in custody, two more have warrants out for their arrests and one more has not been identified.
        Gerardo Nuñez, 27, turned himself in late Tuesday at an undisclosed location on the West Side, authorities said. He was jailed at the Metropolitan Detention Center on charges of kidnapping, aggravated burglary, evidence tampering and conspiracy. His bail has been set at $1 million ,cash only.
        Three cartel-affiliated men — Jaime Valeta, 25, Mario Talavera, 26, and an unknown Hispanic man — face the same charges, Kmatz said. Warrants have been issued for Talavera and Valeta, and all three are still at large.
        Detectives are also looking for Joseph Laycock, who they say made the trip to Mexico with Baca.
        Nuñez had arranged for Baca and Laycock to cross the border and pick up a white Ford Mustang with a hidden compartment containing about $7,000 worth of marijuana and possibly some cocaine, Kmatz said.
        The two men were to drive the car to El Paso and meet a cartel connection there, but Laycock and Baca never went there and the cartel lost track of its drugs.
        Valeta, who has family ties to the cartel, was held responsible, Kmatz said. The cartel told him, essentially: You can bring us Baca, get us our drugs or else.
        So Nuñez, Talavera, Valeta and the unknown Hispanic man went to Baca's East Mountains home in January 2008 after Baca refused to return the drugs or the car.
        The men kidnapped Baca at gunpoint and took him to Talavera's residence on Greythorn SW, court records say. They took him into the garage. That's the last time Baca was seen alive.
        Baca's body was found on a dirt road near Dennis Chavez and Paseo del Volcan SW on Jan. 11. He had been shot 22 times, burned and left in the middle of the road, Kmatz said.
        Kmatz said it's unclear who pulled the trigger or who was at the scene of the killing. But he said the motive is clear.
        "The cartel drug violence that's been making international news is making its way into the Albuquerque area. There have been a lot of major narcotics cases, a lot of suspected cartel connections," he said.
        "With the increased amount of pressure on border crossings and the amount of dope that's being seized, the cartels are starting to lose money," Kmatz said.
        "So they have begun proving a point with anybody they can. With Baca, they wanted him found. They made no effort to hide his body. They were making a statement."

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