Case I: Chapter 4: A Suspect is Identified
Garcia returned to the police station and went back to visit to Medical Examiner.
“Is there anything else you can tell me about the murderer based on your autopsy, George?”
“It is obvious that the murder was done with considerable force with a slight upward thrust to the screwdriver which knocked the Maintenance Man backwards. Forensics found three sets of fingerprints the on screwdriver, one set belonged to the Maintenance Man, one to the guy known as O.J. Torreon who is in the Bernalillo County Criminal Database and one unknown set of prints.”
“I talked briefly to this OJ guy at the facility and found him tough and uncooperative. His police records showed that he has a history of gangs and some mild violence.”
“Well, Señor Investigador, I can’t do your job for you, but you might want to talk to him again and a bit more seriously.”
Garcia called the retirement complex and arranged to meet with Isabella Duncan and said that he wanted to “have a serious conversation” with OJ.
“I’ll be in my office when you arrive and OJ will be here with me.”
When Garcia reached Ms. Duncan’s office, she stood up, looked directly at him and said, “Before you arrest OJ, Lieutenant, please call Jermaine Thompson in the Bernalillo County Probation Office.”
Garcia was taken aback, but stepped into the hallway and placed the call. On the fourth ring, a deep booming voice says, “JT here.”
“This is Lt. Frank Garcia with Albuquerque Major Crimes Unit and I’m investigating a murder at the La Vita Aureo retirement home. I’d like to ask you some questions about O.J. Torreon.”
“Ah, OJ, one of my star pupils.” said Thompson.
“And what do you mean by star pupil?”
“OJ got off to a bad start in life and made some bad choices, but he turned his life around and I am extremely proud of him. He is an example for a lot of the young cholos I see on a daily basis. He was arrested the first time when he was twelve for stealing a car. He did a few months in a juvenile detention home where he met some really bad guys. When he got out, he was taken in by the Tecolote gang who treated him like family, but put him up to a series of petty crimes. Fortunately, none of these involved any serious violence against people or the use of weapons. His “family” also introduced him to drugs and controlled him that way. Eventually, he was arrested with a sack full of electronic equipment and sentenced to a year in jail. That experience didn’t get his attention and he became a frequent guest of the County at the West Side Hilton. Unfortunately, there always seemed to be several Tecolotes in jail at the same time and OJ couldn’t break their influence.”
“Somewhat later, he was breaking into a home in North Valley and was confronted by the woman of the house who was armed. I don’t know what she said to him, but I understand they talked for over an hour. She drove him to the police station where he surrendered. Her husband represented OJ in court and he was offered an extended period probation rather than jail. That was almost five years ago and, to the best of my knowledge, he’s been on the “straight and narrow” ever since. He volunteers in one of our programs and tries to help young kids avoid making similar mistakes. He is here every morning for several hours, including yesterday. That’s what I mean by star pupil.”
“Thanks for that interesting bit of history, Mr. Thompson, but his prints were found on the murder weapon.”
“As I said, he has no history of serious violence. I suspect there is some other explanation for the prints. If you’re at La Vita Aureo now, you might want to talk to their Executive Director and get her take on OJ.”
“”She’s the woman whose house he broke into and who turned him around.”
“I’m standing in the hallway outside her office.”
Garcia walked back into Isabella Duncan’s office. “I won’t arrest him right now, but I’m holding you responsible for knowing where I can find him until I get this cleared up.”
Garcia was disappointed and decided to go back to the Utility Room in hopes of finding any additional clues. It is late in the afternoon and the sun casts different light in the room. He noticed something shining from under the large air blower. He got on his hands and knees and retrieved a small silver cross. He handled it carefully as it might contain evidence that will tell him what happened. And, he knows someone he can ask about this cross.
As Garcia walked toward the dining room, he realized how similar his own history was to OJ’s. It had been Señora Angostura who got his attention and headed him in a better direction before he got into serious trouble. She had virtually taken him into her home and family and raised him along with her own two children who were about Frank’s age. As he entered the dining room, he sees her arranging flowers on a table.
“Querida Madre, is there any coffee left from lunch?”
“Come into the kitchen, hijo and I’ll see. Your eyes tell me you need more than just a cup of coffee.”
“Oh, Madre, I am confused. I thought I had identified the killer, but now I have doubts. I want to solve this case quickly since I know it hurts everyone here.”
“My son, have faith. You will always do your best.”
“Can you tell me anything about this cross?”
Paloma looked closely at the cross in Garcia’s evidence bag. “It is very old and of handmade silver. These were common among my parent’s generation of farm workers. It is often passed down to the youngest daughter in a family.”
Garcia noticed young Maria standing in a corner. She appeared shy and afraid and avoids eye contact. She quickly left the kitchen and went out into the main dining room. He turned to Paloma and says, “Madre, could there be any truth to Millicent’s comment that Maria killed the Maintenance Man? She seems so fragile and incapable of any act such as that.”
“She has been unusually quiet today every time I look at her. But she is a hard worker, a gentle soul and is dedicated to a life of service, like The Virgin.”
“I’m sorry, Madre, but I have to check out every possibility.” Garcia picked up a mixing spoon that Maria was holding to take back to the forensics lab for fingerprint analysis.
Garcia ran into George Hernandez when he returned to Police HQ and George noticed the spoon he is carrying in an evidence bag.
“Well, Señor Investigador, have you found the killer yet, or have you decided to take up cooking instead?”
“George, let me ask you a question. Do you think it possible that a young girl could have committed this murder?”
“Frank, you saw the body before I did. Do you believe someone other than a very strong person could have plunged that large screwdriver that deeply into that poor guy’s chest?”
“Probably not. But, this cross I found tells me there was someone else in that Utility Room. I’m on my way to Forensics to have a set of prints run.”
A few days later, Forensics called Garcia to tell him the prints from the spoon match the unidentified set on the screwdriver. Based on this evidence, Garcia reluctantly realized that he must return to La Vida Aureo to arrest Maria on suspicion of murder. He struggled with the course of action that the evidence demanded, but it is apparent that her prints are on the screwdriver and he suspected that the cross was also hers. He just cannot understand how this shy girl could have committed this serious crime.