Deputies responding to a report of a vehicle fire along County Road 110 Wednesday (Aug. 30) discovered what may be the fourth in a string of stolen vehicles recently recovered around Taos County.
The report of the fire was disseminated across emergency channels around 4 p.m., leading deputies to find a sedan enveloped in flames and pluming smoke. When the blaze was extinguished and the air cleared, they could make out what appeared to be a late-model Chevrolet Camaro. “The vehicle has been completely burnt out,” a responder relayed to Taos Central Dispatch from the scene.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe worked with the New Mexico Insurance and Fraud Division this week to confirm that vehicle had been stolen from the Albuquerque area in July, where three other stolen vehicles recovered the week of Aug. 20 have also been traced.
The first stolen vehicle in the string was recovered on Aug. 22, and the next two were retrieved on Aug. 26, when a black BMW and a gray Hyundai were discovered at a Ranchos de Taos residence.
Sheriff’s deputies were staking out the residence when the two vehicles left the property early Aug. 27. The Hyundai was pulled over and confirmed stolen. The driver, Edward Michael Park, was arrested. The driver of the BMW, however, fled the scene, leading Sgt. Jason Rael on a high-speed chase that ended when the driver, Heather Martinez, 36, crashed outside Peñasco. Both the driver and a passenger in the vehicle, Joshua Gonzalez, 31, were arrested.
All three vehicles came back stolen from the same general area of Albuquerque, Hogrefe said. A fourth stolen vehicle was traced back to Taos County and is believed to be unrelated to the other three.
While the paint job on the Camaro discovered this week was scorched down to its primer coating, a set of custom cherry red rims remained clearly visible and bore a striking resemblance in both color and design to those found on the stolen BMW.
The sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate the string to confirm a relationship and is actively pursuing an arrest. “We have a person of interest and are still working on identifying a suspect we believe is responsible for possessing the car and burning it,” Hogrefe said.