CIBOLA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s four in the morning on September 13. A New Mexico State Police officer pulled over a car on I-40 near Grants for suspended insurance. The officer found a female driver and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Nathen Garley, headed back to Albuquerque after a trip to Phoenix.

But when he smells marijuana in the car, the cop starts asking questions. Video shoed the officer asking Garley when’s the last time he smoked. “I’m a Federal Task Force Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, so based on the odor of marijuana, I have probable cause to search the vehicle,” the officer said.

That search led to a shocking discovery, more than 24 pounds of Fentanyl hidden in a duffel bag. An amount police say is consistent with drug trafficking.

Story continues below

But police later learned the drugs are just the beginning when it comes to Garley. After this stop, he was linked to a murder that rocked the state. Garley is one of three men accused of killing 11-year-old Froylan Villegas and injuring his cousin outside of Isotopes Park in September. Police believe Garley, Jose Romero and Daniel Gomez were targeting a rival gang when they fired 17 shots at the wrong vehicle.

“Not only did Mr. Garley murder an 11-year-old and paralyze another individual and then flee the state after that cowardly act. He brings 100,000 fentanyl tablets of poison back intended to come back to this community,” New Mexico State Police Chief Troy Weisler said in a press conference.

The stop in Cibola County happened just one week after the murder. The female driver was let go shortly after and Garley will be locked up until his trial.