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THE NATION

Killings of 2 Women Spread Fear Throughout Taos Area

July 18, 2002|From Associated Press

TAOS, N.M. — Authorities said Wednesday that they were seeking a parolee believed to have stolen a car belonging to one of two women slain in the last week.

Police said both women lived alone. Prosecutor Donald Gallegos issued a warning to people in the area, especially single women, to be extra vigilant.

The slayings have sent fear rippling through this artists' colony that earlier this month was the site of actress Julia Roberts' wedding.

State Police Lt. Rob Shilling said the stolen car was found about 140 miles away Wednesday in Albuquerque. He said an arrest warrant had been issued for Richard Fresquez, a 23-year-old convicted burglar paroled in May, on suspicion of taking the car and for parole violation.

Investigators said they were also looking for a teenage girl seen with Fresquez.

"We're also anxiously looking for a 16-year-old female," state police Sgt. Michael F. Trujillo said. "We're concerned for her well-being."

On July 9, deputies found Marioara Shand, 38, stabbed to death in her apartment in nearby Ranchos de Taos. The second victim, Leanne Martinez, 22, was found dead Sunday in her mobile home in Taos. It was her car that was stolen.

"I can't get my female employees to stay at work past 5 p.m.," said Susan Backus, owner of a folk art gift shop. "They don't want to be out at night. They're afraid they'll get stabbed."

Angelina Vigil, 16, a sales clerk at a T-shirt shop, said she was raised to not walk anywhere alone at night.

"These events have been scary," she said. "For me, to think that someone from this town is capable of such acts is unbelievable. The more I think about it, the more it worries me."

Gift shop manager Bernadine Herrera said it is difficult to believe such things are happening.

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