Taos County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested a 22-year-old Taos man Thursday (Dec. 7) for allegedly kidnapping his former stepfather at gunpoint, forcing him into the trunk of a car and driving him around Ranchos de Taos in search of cash and drugs.
Travis Walker, the man charged in connection to the incident, had been staying at the home of his alleged victim, identified as Jaime Gonzalez-Aguilera, on Jedi Road in Los Cordovas. An argument over his former step-parent’s car Wednesday evening caused tensions that allegedly turned violent early Thursday morning, according to a criminal complaint.
Gonzalez-Aguilera said he confronted Walker about taking his gray 2017 Dodge without permission on Wednesday (Dec. 6). Walker allegedly responded by arming himself with a sawed-off shotgun and demanding that Gonzalez-Aguilera hand over cash, which he believed to be stored in a safe inside the home. When Gonzalez-Aguilera told him the safe was empty, Walker allegedly struck him in the face with the butt of the shotgun, causing a laceration on the man’s forehead.
According to the complaint, Gonzalez-Aguilera operates a mechanic’s shop on Mauro Road in Ranchos de Taos. An employee, who lives at Cohn’s Trailer Park near the shop, said he was receiving “strange” text messages from his boss Wednesday night. The employee said he asked a friend to drive him to the home shortly after midnight Thursday morning.
At the residence, he said he encountered Walker holding a shotgun to Gonzalez-Aguilera’s head. Walker allegedly threatened to kill the employee and fired one shot in his direction, though Tim Hasson, a prosecutor with the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office, said this week that the witness has since expressed uncertainty regarding this allegation.
The employee fled to a field at the end of Jedi Road, where he said he then saw Walker, Terra Della Silva, a minor who was also allegedly armed, and Gonzalez-Aguilera leave the residence in a vehicle.
The witness reported what he had seen to law enforcement, which would later learn that Gonzalez-Aguilera had allegedly been blindfolded and forced into the trunk of the vehicle before the suspects fled.
Deputy Sylvia Trujillo-Chacon responded to the call and met the employee in the field, where he urged her to search the home, concerned that his boss might have been killed during the altercation.
While clearing the residence, Trujillo-Chacon discovered an opened safe in a bedroom and an unspent shotgun shell close by. She took DNA swabs of blood she found on the floor and on the bed. She also observed a torn piece of fabric draped over the side of a bathtub.
Another interview with the employee outside the residence revealed that Gonzalez-Aguilera had expressed concern regarding some of the people Walker had bringing around his home. He had told his employee that he suspected Walker to be a “meth addict.”
The deputy provided Gonzalez-Aguilera’s cell phone number to Taos Central Dispatch, which narrowed the phone's last known location to somewhere in the area of Camino del Medio, Sunshine Road and Chamisa Road in Ranchos de Taos. Other deputies, however, were unable to locate the vehicle.
As Trujillo-Chacon patrolled the surrounding neighborhoods, the employee reported seeing the grey Dodge return to the residence on Jedi Road, but by the time deputies responded, the suspect vehicle had again fled – this time, headed northbound toward Cuchilla Road.
Trujillo-Chacon and another deputy caught up with the vehicle near Cohn’s Trailer Park, where they performed a felony traffic stop and arrested Walker. They discovered Gonzalez-Aguilera injured inside the vehicle and contacted medics to provide him with treatment.
Walker allegedly admitted to striking Gonzalez-Aguilera during an interview with deputies, but he also claimed that the men had only been driving around “trying to work things out.”
The alleged victim, however, told a different story, explaining that he had been beaten and forced inside the trunk of the vehicle as Walker and a female accomplice attempted to steal money from his bank accounts in order to purchase narcotics.
Deputies searched Walker and recovered two shotgun shells and two .38-caliber bullets from his pockets. They also found a bandana in the vehicle, which they believe may have been used to blindfold Gonzalez-Aguilera.
Silva was allegedly involved in an armed robbery in Pecos, New Mexico in October. The complaint filed regarding the Dec. 7 event, however, did not provide details of Silva's arrest, nor did it list any penalties she might face as a result of her alleged involvement in last week's alleged crimes. Hasson said in court this week that she is "still at large."
Walker was charged with kidnapping in the first degree, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and other charges. He appeared for a no-bond hearing on Wednesday (Dec. 13) in Taos District Court, where Hasson presented several exhibits, including the criminal complaint, and cited Walker's prior charges for violent crimes and a history of non-compliance with conditions of release.
Presiding Judge Jeff McElroy accepted the state's motion for no bond, which will keep Walker incarcerated as his case is processed – pending an appeal on the part of defense attorney Ray Florsheim.
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said this week that Hasson is compiling other evidence, which may result in additional charges. Among them, an illegal weapons charge may be filed, as a "sawed-off shotgun" with a barrel length of less than 18 inches is illegal to possess in the United States, according to federal law. The alleged presence of a minor during the crime may also bring an additional charge.
Walker is scheduled for a preliminary examination on Dec. 20 in Taos Magistrate Court.