By Tony Parra
Portales went five years without a homicide, from 1999 through 2003. Then two unrelated slayings took place in 2004. Last week, Roosevelt County experienced its first multiple homicide in what officials said is at least two decades with the deaths of longtime residents Odis and Doris Newman.
“It’s a crazy thing,” said Elouisa Vega, who has lived in Portales for 20 years.
“This is the first incident this year, but there were other incidents last year. … I don’t feel safe at all.”
Vega was shopping Tuesday at a store near the stretch of North Main where police shot a man they suspect was involved in the Newmans’ slayings.
Vega said she does not live in the area, but often visits family members that do.
“We used to cruise around in the north part of Portales when I was younger,” Vega said. “Now my teenage sons cruise around and I worry about them. I’m scared they might get hurt.”
Vega said she has seen an increase in police patrol in the north part of town in recent months, especially since two homicides occurred in the area last year.
She is not the city’s only resident concerned with the violent trend.
Maria Valenzuela owns a meat market on North Main and Fir Streets, about half a block from where yellow police tape blocked off the area where Tuesday’s shooting took place.
“It scares me a lot,” Valenzuela said. “Sometimes I work alone and it scares me to know this happened so close.”
Valenzuela said she and her husband, Sergio, have owned the store for the last three years. She said they moved from California to Portales eight years ago to get away from violence.
“This whole incident makes me nervous,” Valenzuela said.
But Charlene Carter still believes Portales is safer than many communities.
“We have a few bad apples, but for the most part people in this community are good,” Carter said. “I think this incident will make our community stronger.”
Carter said she was close to the Newmans.
“I knew them very well,” she said. “They took me under their wings when my mother died in 2002. They were wonderful people. They were the greatest parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
“It has shocked the whole community.”
Neighboring Curry County has seen 28 homicides since 1998.
Before Amber Robinson, 20, was slain last April 26, Portales had not seen a homicide since ’98. Police and sheriff officials said they could not recall a multiple homicide in the county over the past 25 years.
In mid-June a Clovis man was stabbed to death at the corner of Date Street and North Avenue K in Portales.
Two men have been arrested in connection with Robinson’s death. No one has been charged with the killing of Jorge Prado.