ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Two men were arrested Wednesday in the murder of Michael Checkley, a popular swim coach described by his brother as "family-oriented, caring and loving."
"I mean he was that guy that always smiled," said Ralph Merrill. "He always found something to smile over."
Robert Sanchez, 27, and Joe Allen, 26, were arrested three days after Michael Checkley was stabbed to death. Sanchez and Allen are charged with an open count of murder.
Sanchez, who has an extensive criminal history, is a registered sex offender in Sandoval county. Six years ago, he raped a teenage girl.
When he was arrested by police for Checkley's murder, police said he challenged officers to get out their unmarked vehicles. Officers were parked outside Sanchez's home as they waited for a search warrant.
But even after the arrests, Merrill said he'll never understand his little brother's murder. Checkley, who was a swim coach and had just gotten into real estate, showed off his infectious smile in numerous pictures on his Facebook page.
"It's been hard to swallow in the sense that how does anybody do this to this kind of person?" Merrill said.
Checkley, 24, was a graduate of Rio Rancho High School.
Checkley's family learned more about his death with the arrest of Sanchez and Allen. According to police Sanchez said he and Allen were walking toward the Ventana Canyon Apartments in the 10300 block of Golf Course Road NW near McMahon Boulevard early Sunday morning when they noticed Checkley and his friend arguing near a dirt lot.
According to Sanchez, it was Checkley and his friend who began a verbal argument that turned into a physical altercation. Sanchez claimed he thought about stealing their car but instead ran across the street to the apartments.
Sanchez told police he had no idea that Allen had repeatedly stabbed Checkley.
But Checkley's older brother said the murder suspects' version of what triggered the fight is hard to believe because his brother wasn't the violent type.
And Checkley will never get the chance to tell a judge and jury what happened.
"He (Checkley) said, 'I feel faint,'" Merrill said. "Those were his last words."
Checkley's friend took him to Lovelace Hospital just a minute away, but it was too late. He died from repeatedly being stabbed in the chest and back.
Merrill said he'll always have unanswered questions about why anyone would want to murder his brother, a popular swim coach and a man who was loved by many.
"Why would anybody want to kill somebody," Merrill said. "Michael, keep smiling. See you soon, love you very much.
"That's how I choose to remember him. I choose to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death."
A scholarship fund has been set up in Checkley's memory at any Wells Fargo Bank branch under the name Michael Checkley Memorial Scholarship Fund.
A candlelight vigil will be held where the attack occurred off Wednesday from 8-10 p.m.
Services for Checkley will be held Thursday at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Rio Rancho, 1502 Sara Rd SE, starting at 10 a.m.
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