Crime, courts and cops

Suspect in jail, teenager safe after Peñasco incident


The alleged kidnapping of a 15-year-old from a Peñasco-area residence the evening of Feb. 25 was brought to a swift, peaceful conclusion by a multi-agency law enforcement effort that placed a suspect behind bars and returned the victim to safety within hours of the incident.

Cristian Orozco, 21, was taken into custody without incident by members of Española Police Department around 8:30 a.m. Feb. 26 at a residence near Starlighter Loop in Española, where Orozco allegedly took 15-year-old Taos County resident Angelica Valdez. Law enforcement officials say he abducted her at gunpoint from her grandparents’ Peñasco home around 6:30 p.m. the night before.

Valdez was reportedly unharmed during the nearly 15-hour ordeal, which was brought to the attention of New Mexico residents via an “Amber Alert” initiated by New Mexico State Police during the early morning hours of Feb. 26.

Abduction details

According to a criminal complaint filed this week, Taos County Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Romo was informed around 7 p.m. Feb. 25 that Sgt. Rick Romero, also with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office, had accepted a call shortly after 6 p.m. at a residence located on Santa Barbara Road in Peñasco.

The call was reportedly made in reference to a “home invasion,” during which two people (Valdez’s grandparents) were allegedly held at gunpoint and restrained against their will as Valdez was taken by a suspect the family believed to be Orozco.

Valdez’s family members have acknowledged that they had known the teen to have previously been in a “violent relationship” with the suspect.

Before taking himself off the case due to an unspecified “conflict of interest,” Romero relayed what he had learned upon arrival on the scene.

At the residence, Romero reported that Valdez’s grandfather said that someone had knocked on his door around 6 p.m. Upon answering, a male individual wearing a bandana over his mouth and a dark hooded sweatshirt pushed the door open, pointed a gun at his head and forced his way inside the home.

Orozco then allegedly handcuffed Valdez’s grandfather’s hands behind his back and ordered Valdez’s grandmother into a bathroom, threatening to kill them both if they attempted to escape or follow him as he proceeded to “drag” Valdez out the door and into the yard.

The suspect was allegedly heard reminding Valdez that he “would kill her” if she ever left him again.

Valdez’s grandfather ignored Orozco’s demand and “peeked” out the front door, but only saw Orozco as he pulled his granddaughter into the darkened street, where no vehicle was visible, he told Romo.

Fraternal felons

Deputy Romo writes in the complaint that he immediately recognized the suspect’s name, as Orozco has developed a criminal record that lists several other felony charges filed in multiple courts throughout New Mexico, including Hobbs Magistrate Court, Lovington District Court, Taos District Court and Albuquerque Metropolitan Court.

Orozco’s priors have ranged from possession of a controlled substance to attempted armed robbery, and other kidnappings.

Romo quickly shared this information and Orozco’s last known address in Española with other agencies, including state police, Río Arriba County Sheriff’s Office and Española police via dispatch, which subsequently informed him that Valdez’s father had arrived at the Taos County Sheriff’s Office requesting to speak with a deputy regarding the incident.

Valdez’s father informed Romo that he had received a phone call from Valdez around 6:55 p.m.

“All he could hear was crying and sobbing in the background, and then the phone hung up,” Romo wrote in the report.

After unsuccessfully attempting to return his daughter’s call, Valdez’s father phoned her aunt, whom the victim had been living with before she went to her grandparents’ residence for a weekend visit.

Valdez’s aunt confirmed the abduction, at which point Valdez’s father also acknowledged that the suspect was likely Orozco.

With Valdez’s cellphone number in hand, Romo then attempted to track the victim’s phone location through AT&T, which refused on the basis that Valdez’s consent would have to be provided — despite the “exigent circumstances we were dealing with,” Romo writes.

The deputy then patrolled several areas in Taos where Orozco had been known to take up residence – Vigil’s Trailer Park, John Hughes Trailer Park and Faustin’s Trailer Park.

Still unable to locate the suspect, Romo proceeded to the Taos County Adult Detention Center, where he questioned Orozco’s older brother, Rafael Orozco, 22, who was incarcerated in December on charges connected to a lockdown at Holy Cross Hospital that precipitated a monthslong search. “Rafael [Orozco] said that he hadn’t spoken to his brother in a while and did not know of any vehicles he had, but that he would contact me if he heard anything,” Romo recalls in the report.

Arrest, arraignment

A public information officer for the Española Police Department explained that his office, along with members of the state police and Ohkay Owingeh Tribal Police, were contacted around 8:20 a.m. Feb. 26 with a possible location for a brown-colored vehicle believed to be driven by Orozco.

The tip directed law enforcement to a residence on Starlighter Loop, where officers took up positions around the residence and called over a PA unit for the suspect to surrender peacefully.

Orozco allegedly then exited the rear of the residence with Valdez and was taken into custody without incident, according to law enforcement.

A .357-caliber pistol was discovered on the suspect’s person, but was not wielded during the arrest.

Orozco was arraigned Feb. 27 in Río Arriba County Magistrate Court on one count of kidnapping in the first degree; two counts of kidnapping in the second degree; aggravated burglary, a second-degree felony; and three counts of aggravated assault, a fourth-degree felony.

He is incarcerated in the Tierra Amarilla Detention Center in Española, where he is being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond.

A preliminary hearing has not yet been scheduled.