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Police: 'Wiccan' Stabbed Man

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Angela Sanford told detectives she had invited Joel Leyva to a popular hiking spot in the Sandia Foothills on Monday to celebrate a Wiccan rite of spring.
        But Leyva, 52, made "inappropriate sexual gestures behind her back," and Sanford became afraid he was going to rape her, she told police. She decided the best way to keep him from doing so was to "seduce him," according to a criminal complaint.
        Sanford, 30, told detectives that she convinced Leyva to take off most of his clothes. She told investigators that she did the same, then straddled Leyva and stabbed him three times in the stomach with what she described as a small Wiccan dagger known as an athame, said Police Chief Ray Schultz during a news conference Tuesday morning.
        Detectives working the case say there are several inconsistencies in Sanford's story. She was arrested and charged with an open count of murder.
        Among the inconsistencies:
        • Leyva, a father of three adult children and son of a local reverend, was stabbed as many as 13 times in the head and torso, according to the complaint. And the blade police recovered is at least 12 inches long, said APD spokeswoman Nadine Hamby.
        • A jogger who had been in the open space east of Copper and Tramway NE around the time of the stabbing — about 6 p.m. — told police Sanford's clothes were neatly folded near Leyva's body.
        • Witnesses who were in the area around that time told police they never heard Sanford call for help.
        • One witness said he saw Sanford, who was dressed only in a bra and underwear, hiding behind some boulders, according to the complaint. The witness said Sanford later emerged from her hiding spot and told him she had been raped.
        • When police arrived at the scene, Sanford was on her cell phone trying to get someone to pick her up, authorities said in interviews.
        Sanford refused to tell detectives whether she had had sex with Leyva, Hamby said. A sexual assault examination was performed.
        Sanford, who told police she is a practicing Wiccan, was being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center late Tuesday on a $500,000 cash or surety bond.
        Also according to court documents and interviews with police:
        Sanford told detectives she met Leyva last week at a casino and had been "socializing" with him ever since. On Monday, Leyva called her in the early afternoon to see what she was doing, she told investigators.
        Sanford was with her boyfriend at the time but told Leyva to meet her in the open space. When he arrived, Sanford said the two walked up a trail into the open space and stopped at an area she had picked out.
        She drank a beer and a shot of tequila, and he drank a beer, Sanford told police. Leyva brought the alcohol.
        At some point, Sanford walked a short way away from Leyva to urinate, she told detectives. That's when he made what she called "inappropriate sexual advances," then took a piece of rope Sanford had been wearing as a belt from around her waist and tied her wrists. Leyva also took the dagger from her pocket, Sanford said.
        Sanford told police she was able to get the rope off her wrists. The two then took off most of their clothes at Sanford's behest, and Leyva laid down.
        Sanford then stabbed Leyva and walked away, according to police.
        Leyva's brother, Ruben Leyva, said he was "shocked" to hear what allegedly happened in the foothills. He said the family had "no idea" who Sanford was or that Joel Leyva had known her.
        The family had spent several hours together on Sunday, Ruben Leyva said, at a birthday party for Ruben and Joel's mother. Joel's longtime partner, who also is the mother of his children, was there.
        "There was nothing out of the ordinary," he said. "We just had a really good time.
        "My brother was a curious sort, but his faith in God was deep. We were all just shocked to hear of his involvement with this."
        Joel Leyva was born and raised in Albuquerque and attended West Mesa High School, his brother said. He worked a variety of jobs through the years, including some in the shipping and billing industries.
        Matthew Leyva, Joel's son, remembered the way his father supported him and was always there with a helping hand when things didn't go as planned.
        "I'll miss his wisecracks," Matthew Leyva said. "Even the ones that weren't funny. I'll miss the camping trips we went on all over New Mexico. And he always made sure we said our prayers when we went to sleep and guided us in our faith."
        Sanford's MySpace page says she is in a relationship and lists her religion as Wiccan. It also says she is a "proud parent."
        A 2004 Albuquerque police report details an incident in which Sanford's former boyfriend found a note on his car that he believed Sanford had written. In the letter, Sanford threatened to have her new boyfriend kill him, saying: "Thanks a lot, know I don't have my little girl because you kill her. Take my advice and run while you can."
        Sanford was never charged in the case.

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