ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Below are 10 cases in New Mexico that were solved by using Katie’s Law.
2008: Joseph Blea
Joseph Blea is serial rapist responsible for a string of rapes on middle school girls in the 1980s and 90s. Those crimes went unsolved until Blea’s DNA linked him to the crime scenes. He had been arrested for domestic violence in 2008, and as part of that arrest, he was required by “Katie’s Law” to submit his DNA. To this day, Blea is considered a prime suspect in the West Mesa Murders.
2008: Israel Diaz
In 2008, Israel Diaz, raped and killed 11-year-old Victoria Sandoval on Halloween in 2005. The girl was found raped and strangled inside the mobile home where she lived with her grandparents. For almost three years, an innocent man, Robert Gonzales had been jailed for this crime. Gonzales was mentally challenged. According to the DNA Saves Foundation, created by Katie Sepich’s parents, even though his DNA did not match, he could have been at the crime scene because he knew a lot about the crime. Israel Diaz was later arrested for burglary and the DNA match was made. Diaz was arrested and Gonzales was set free.
2009: Jeremy J. Melendrez
In 2009, Jeremy J. Melendrez was accused of burglary and aggravated battery charges. When his DNA was entered into the system, it matched a sample collected during the investigation of Sasha Hedgecock’s murder. Hedgecock was shot seven times and left in a field in Carlsbad. Melendrez’s DNA was a match. Still, it took almost seven years to construct a case that was persuasive enough to hold up in court, and the charges came at a critical time. Melendrez was due to be released in 2016.
2012: Francisco Perez
Back in 2012, Francisco Perez pulled a knife on the woman as she walked on the track at Alamosa Elementary School in Albuquerque and demanded $10. When the woman said she had no money, he forced her to go with him between two portables where he raped her. Police never made the attack public. They arrested Perez the following year after it was confirmed that DNA from the crime matched a DNA sample he gave under Katie’s Law. Perez had given a sample when he was arrested on a commercial burglary charge.
2015: Nicolas Williams
Nicolas Williams is charged with raping women at gunpoint. He was arrested in March of 2019 after a prostitute claimed he raped her at a park the year before. According to a criminal complaint, Williams DNA was run through a database and it matched DNA from a rape kit collected in 2015. Police say the victim, in that case, identified Williams as the man who raped her. Since then, investigators say other women he picked up have come forward with similar claims.
2015: Jesus Reynoso
Investigators say Jesus Reynoso Jr. broke into a 71-year-old woman’s home in Santa Fe back in 2015. The woman says he pushed through her door and raped her. Court records show Reynoso Jr. has been in and out of jail for the last decade. His DNA on file with the state likely came from a 2012 arrest For criminal sexual contact and kidnapping. In that case, he was accused of attempting to sexually assault a woman. Those charged were dropped when a judge ruled Reynoso Jr. was incompetent to stand trial. He suffers from schizophrenia. Reynoso Jr. has a competency hearing in this most recent case in August 2019.
2016: Jedidiah Rose
In May of 1996, then 43-year-old Rick Brodbeck’s bludgeoned body was found in Nob Hill. Blood was everywhere, but the case quickly turned cold. Albuquerque Police arrested Jedidiah Rose for stealing a car in 2016 and his DNA was taken. Rose’s blood matched the blood found at the scene of Brodbeck’s murder. Police say Rose knew Brodbeck and killed him during a robbery. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in prison.
2017: Mark Chavez
Mark Chavez was sentenced to 18 years behind bars in 2017 after Albuquerque police tied him to a cold case from 2006. A woman was kidnapped, and told police she was beaten, locked in a garage and raped. Investigators collected DNA from her fingernails. It wasn’t until Mark Chavez was arrested in 2014 that his DNA was taken and linked to the crime. In a separate case, Chavez was sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing a woman in Moriarty. His sentences will be served back-to-back.
2018: Ramon Monreno
Ramon Moreno was arrested in 2018 for a 15-year-old cold case. Moreno allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old man in 2003. He was arrested on an unrelated felony charge in 2015 and was required to submit a DNA sample. The sample triggered a match with DNA from the victim’s underwear collected when the rape occurred. A police report says the victim said he abandoned his home, left his job after the assault. He slid into alcohol and substance abuse and had trouble holding down a job years later. Court records show Moreno is expected to go on trial sometime this year.
2019: James A. Chavez
Albuquerque Police say James A. Chavez shot and killed two men at the Circle K store on University and Menaul in January of 2019. According to police, Chavez was loitering when the assistant manager’s brother and his friend came to visit. Police say Chavez unwrapped a water bottle, drank from it and said he wouldn’t be able to pay. The two men Jesús Lopez and James Ronquillo were helping escort Chavez off the property when investigators say he shot them dead. Police used DNA off the water bottle to pin Chavez to the murders.