Crime

3rd man arrested in Las Cruces killing tied to fight over drug debt

SILVER CITY, New Mexico - A third man sought in last weekend's drug-related shooting death in Las Cruces has been captured in Silver City, authorities said Friday.

Gabriel Ray Salaiz, 21, was arrested Thursday in Silver City and faces the same first-degree murder and felony kidnapping charges as his father, 43-year old Patrick D. Salaiz and 25-year-old Sonny Sierra - who were both arrested earlier this week. All three men are from Silver City.

The trio is accused of killing 28-year-old Robert Pena, also of Silver City, and dumping his body along Esperanza Street in Las Cruces early last Saturday morning. Investigators said the deadly shooting stemmed from an argument over a drug debt.

"There was some type of dispute between the two different parties, or factions, on what was owed; either money was owed or some type of packages were owed," said Las Cruces Police Dept. spokesman Dan Trujillo. 

The slaying was reportedly witnessed by Pena's girlfriend, who court documents indicate provided information to authorities that helped lead to the arrests.

Sierra was granted a $50,000 secured bond, while Patrick Salaiz remained held without bond. Both suspects appeared in court Friday. 

Sierra stood before special commissioner John Trujillo for a pre-trial detention hearing.

Prosecutors rejected a claim that Sierra acted in self-defense, telling the judge "it was a drug deal gone bad that turned into a robbery and it was drug trafficking that led to a killing."

But defense attorneys representing Sierra said there was no testimony presented in court Friday that provided any evidence of a drug deal.  As a result, Trujillo ruled Sierra would not be detained and issued the $50,000 secured bond.


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