Homicides increased in unincorporated Sandoval County last year, while assaults decreased, according to the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office annual report.
Last year, deputies handled five homicide cases, up from one case each in 2018 and 2019, and four cases in 2017, according to the report.
Sheriff’s Capt. Alan Mills said homicide numbers typically fluctuate from year to year.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason to it,” he said.
The homicides last year were:
• A man taken from Albuquerque to the Sandia Man Cave near Placitas and shot; arrests have been made.
• Young men horsing around with guns near White Mesa and shooting one of their number.
• Donald “Soza” Miller was found dead on the mesa west of Rio Rancho on Nov. 5. The case remains unsolved. Anyone with information is asked to contact Sgt. Griffin or Detective Linson with the sheriff’s office at 867-7526 or report anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 843-STOP or P3tips.com/531.
• A stabbing in Regina; an arrest had been made; and
• Skiing celebrity Dean Cummings, then 54, was charged in the shooting death of Guillermo Arriola in a mobile home near Cabezon Peak in February 2020. He was found not competent to stand trial and sent to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute for treatment in June 2020. He was found competent this March, and his trial is scheduled for January 2022.
Meanwhile, reported assaults dropped to 78 cases, from 128, 109 and 149 in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Mills and Lt. John Castañeda aren’t sure why, but speculated that COVID-related closures may be the reason.
Deputies handled two reports of rape in 2020, compared to one case each in 2018 and 2019 and three cases in 2017, according to the annual report. They also investigated two robbery cases last year, which was the same number as in 2018, but up slightly from none in 2017 and one in 2019.
Reports of residential burglaries have been dropping since 2017, according to the report, with a sharper decrease last year. In 2020, deputies took 31 residential burglary reports, down from 56 in 2017, 47 in 2018 and 46 in 2019.
The sheriff’s office attributes the decrease to people staying home due to the pandemic.
As for car burglaries, no specific numbers were recorded for in 2017. Since then, the amount of cases has been going down slightly. In 2018, 31 car burglaries were reported, decreasing to 27 in 2019 and 26 in 2020.
According to the sheriff’s office, many of the auto burglaries last year were reported at trail head and river-access parking areas.
Also, the Street Crimes and Intelligence Unit seized more than $331,000 worth of drugs in 2020, as well as seven stolen vehicles, four stolen license plates, 16 guns and more than $42,700 in cash, according to the report. The unit, which focuses on drug crimes and burglaries, started in 2019, but 2020 was its first year going full speed.
In addition to developing such specialized units to address problems, the sheriff’s office has increased the number of investigators.
“We’re trying to utilize the manpower we have in the most efficient manner we can,” Mills said.