Two men from Roswell and Texas have been charged in connection with a 20-year-old murder of a local man, a case that for decades has revolved around trying to locate a man previously charged and believed to be in Mexico.
Tony “Nacho” Gonzales, 40, of Roswell was charged Jan. 22 with one count of first-degree murder in the 1997 shooting death of Edward Raymond Sanchez, while Gonzalo David Bonilla, 43, of Haltom, Texas, was originally charged Nov. 16 with four felony counts. But the district attorney has dropped all but a first-degree murder charge against Bonilla at this time, according to court records.
Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder said the recent actions came after a decision by Dianna Luce, New Mexico 5th Judicial District Attorney, to proceed with charges against the U.S. suspects.
“We always knew where these two were,” Snyder said. “We are glad that it has happened.”
He added that the men have been released while they await hearings.
Neither Gonzales nor Bonilla has entered a plea yet, and calls to their defense attorneys were not returned by press time. Gonzales is scheduled to appear Feb. 5 for an arraignment before District Court Judge Kea Riggs, while Bonilla is scheduled to appear Jan. 30 before Chaves County Magistrate Judge E.J. Fouratt for a preliminary hearing.
Their arrests are the first public movement in a long time for a case that has been under investigation for years and was once the subject of an “America’s Most Wanted” TV episode.
Sanchez, the son of Raymond and Dolores Sanchez of Roswell, was killed in September 1997 at the age of 25 in what Snyder has referred to as a “cold-blooded murder.”
His body was found Sept. 20 in a ditch on River Road near Bottomless Lakes State Park. His wife had filed a missing persons report Sept. 18 after Sanchez had not returned from a gathering at Gonzales’s house the night before. Sheriff’s deputies found Sanchez with two gunshots to the head, and an autopsy later concluded that the bullets had come from different guns.
Chaves County Sheriff investigators had identified the three suspects within days of the incident. Court documents indicated that people at the gathering had told authorities that they had seen Sanchez leave the house in the company of Gonzales, Bonilla and Hector Dominguez.
Court documents also allege that Gonzales had told at least one person that Sanchez had been killed by Hector Dominguez when the four of them had gotten out of the car to urinate. But it still took about three years for an arrest warrant to be issued for Dominguez, who was thought to have left the Roswell area shortly after the murder and was believed to be in Mexico, probably in the Chihuahua area where he was known to have family.
Sheriff’s detectives have searched for Dominguez for the past 17 years, and Sanchez’s family periodically reached out to the media, including “America’s Most Wanted,” to keep the case in the public eye. Dominguez, who has given different birth dates to authorities but is believed to be either 43 or 41 years old, is also the subject of a “wanted” posting on the U.S. Marshals Service website.
In September, on the 20th anniversary of the case, Luce talked about her office’s commitment to justice in response to a statement from the New Mexico Attorney General’s office that it would do whatever it could to assist in extraditing Dominguez if needed.
“Our office understands this case needs to be brought forward in order for there to be justice,” she said. “We are doing what we can to make sure that happens.”
Luce’s office said that she is in Santa Fe for the week, and she did not return a phone message by press time.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.