In what authorities believe is the worst mass slaying in modern New Mexico history, police officers on Sunday continued to look for a 28-year-old welder suspected in a bloody shoot-out that left seven people dead, including a state policeman, a sheriff’s deputy and a 6-month-old baby, authorities said.
More than 50 officers combed the mountains around this tiny village for Ricky Abeyta, who police said killed five of the victims in a domestic dispute Saturday, then shot the two officers when they tried to serve him with a restraining order from his girlfriend.
But after a massive search that began Saturday night and continued until Sunday afternoon, officers said they believed Abeyta had ventured beyond the small cluster of mobile homes in this town of 2,500 and into the rugged foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Officers said they were asking for the public’s help in leading them to Abeyta.
“We want to alert the public to the menace out there,” said Maj. John Denko of the New Mexico State Police. “It’s pretty scary now.”
The slayings occurred Saturday afternoon along County Road 89, a winding dirt highway known as the high road to Taos.
Police suspect Abeyta, a skilled hunter, of fatally shooting his 36-year-old girlfriend, her teen-age daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend, their infant child and another relative during a dispute in Abeyta’s mobile home.
Abeyta’s girlfriend, identified as Ignacita Sandoval, had won a restraining order against him and was moving her belongings to a rented van outside the house when the shooting began, officers said.
Also dead were Sandoval’s daughter, Maryellen Sandoval, 19; her boyfriend, Macario Gonzales, 19; their 6-month-old son, Justin Gonzales, and Cheryl Rendon, 25, who was described only as a relative.
The only survivor was Sandoval’s 13-year-old son, Eloy, who was in serious but stable condition Sunday with two gunshot wounds at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
“He probably shot several, if not all of the victims before the officer got there,” Denko said. “The officers were not apprised of it and evidently walked into a hornet’s nest.”
The first to arrive was Jerry Martinez, 35, who also had been a state policeman for seven years. Huber, who leaves a wife and two children, was shot once in the head as he sat behind the wheel of his patrol car.
Police said Abeyta was believed to be armed with three weapons; a 7-mm magnum rifle, a .38-caliber handgun and a .357-caliber magnum revolver, apparently taken from Martinez.
“Anything is possible with this guy right now,” Denko said. “We don’t know what his mental state is. We know it’s not normal.”
Luis Garcia, a neighbor from across the county road, said he knew Abeyta and the two slain officers.
“It hurts, man, it really hurts,” said Garcia, 28. “Whatever was going on between him and the woman was something else. Killing the officers and the other people, especially the kids, I don’t see why he killed them.”
Bill Diven in Chimayo, N.M., contributed to this story.