Teens accused of burglarizing, burning down home


BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Two teens are accused of breaking into the East Mountains home of a 64-year-old woman, burglarizing it and then burning it down.

It happened late Wednesday night at a home near Tijeras, just north of I-40.

KRQE News 13 spoke with Alia Manning, niece to Martha, the 64-year-old woman who lived in the home. Martha shared a property with Manning’s parents.

According to Manning and a criminal filed by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the chaos started just before 11 p.m. Wednesday when two teens, 18-year-old James Vargas and 19-year-old James Gonzales, drove up Martha and her family’s private dirt road.

Manning says people often accidentally drive up the road, but the family just helps them turn around and leave. That wasn’t the case this time when Martha went outside and tried to get the boys to go away.

“My aunt was doing everything she could just to get them on their way and out of here,” Manning said.

But when they wouldn’t leave, Martha left to get help from her sister and brother-in-law nearby and called 911.

“One of them entered [her] home as she was leaving,” Manning said.

Deputies ended up intercepting the teens at the bottom of the one way in-and-out dirt road as they attempted to drive away, and questioned them. That’s when Martha’s house went up in flames.

“By the time [crews] arrived on scene, the house was fully involved in fire,” Bernallilo County Fire Dept. representative Matt Propp said. “Their goal at that point was to protect the forest and the area around it.”

Propp said it was difficult for fire crews to get up the hill to the home, but they made it with about 2,000 feet of hose.

Martha’s house was reduced to ashes. Five generations of a family home, gone. Heirlooms and memorabilia became rubble.

“I was born in this home. There was many families that lived in this home,” Manning said. “It really is generations of people’s blood, sweat and tears.”

“For just a couple of awful people to come up and destroy it all is shocking,” Manning said, crying. “It’s just sad. It’s just really, really sad.”

As for Vargas and Gonzales, the two have been booked into MDC on various charges. Gonzales appears to have multiple warrants out for his arrest for various crimes, some of those likely being when he was considered a juvenile.

While being questioned by deputies, Gonzales pointed the finger at Vargas for everything, including the fire. According to a criminal complaint, he claims Vargas went into the house and insinuated that Vargas used a lighter to set fire to some curtains.

As of Thursday evening, Vargas was the only one of the two teens charged with arson. Both were still in jail.

Vargas does not have a criminal record as an adult in New Mexico.

Gonzales was charged with battery last year in the adult court system.

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