PNT Photo: Kevin Wilson
Tom Rollins of the Roosevelt County Sheriff's Department talks to a resident during Friday's neighborhood canvassing.
Odis and Doris Newman have been missing since Wednesday and they are the owners of a Portales residence and vehicle that were burned on Thursday. But law-enforcement officials have stopped short of saying the remains of two people found in the car are the Newmans.
“It’s a connection that law enforcement is not going to speculate on,” District Attorney Matt Chandler said on Saturday, “but we are definitely investigating this as foul play and a suspicious death.
“We’re not going to have an identification on the bodies. That’s entirely and completely up to the office of medical investigation (in Albuquerque).”
Relatives of the Newman family were contacted on Saturday, but declined to comment, citing concerns they might interfere with the ongoing investigation.
State senator Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) estimated that the Newmans have been in Portales for at least 30-40 years, and that Odis, 70, helped develop Valley Electric and pivot sprinkler systems for Curry and Roosevelt Counties.
“He was one of the pioneer guys to put in pivot sprinklers,” Ingle said, “and he was a real asset to the community.”
No arrests had been made in the case as of Saturday night.
The burned car was found Thursday morning off of New Mexico Highway 88 southeast of Portales. After extinguishing the fire, Chandler said investigators found human remains. Law enforcement personnel used the car’s license plates to find its registered owner and address. When officials arrived at the Newmans’ home at Roosevelt Road 4 Lane, the house was on fire.
From the outside, the home appeared to have sustained minimal structural damage. Officials said the fires at the home and car were likely intended to cover up evidence.
A blue 1997 Ford truck was seen leaving the Newmans’ residence, and was found abandoned Friday afternoon in a residential area of Portales. Law enforcement agencies did a neighborhood search in a three-block area on South Avenue A and South Avenue B from Seventh Street to Tenth Street, which is where the truck was found.
Chandler said the blue pickup also belongs to the Newmans.
Now officials are asking for the public's help in identifying anyone who may have been in the vicinity of the Allsup’s convenience store at 14th Street and Avenue D between 4 and 6 p.m. on Thursday.
“We believe the possible suspect or suspects were seen at (that) Allsup’s,” Chandler said. He would not explain how investigators came to that conclusion.
Chandler said the office is also looking for a person who made a visit to an automated teller machine late Wednesday night.
“We have obtained a video image of a person of interest using an ATM machine at approximately 10:15 p.m. on (Wednesday),” Chandler said. “It’s of interest because the ATM card that is being used is a card that we believe was taken out of the residence or the vehicle.”
Anyone with information may contact Roosevelt County Crime Stoppers at 356-8100 or the state police at 763-3426.
A fund has been set up for the Newman family at Portales National Bank. Linda Davis, a cashier at PNB, said Friday that anybody wishing to make a donation can donate to the Roosevelt County General Foundation and to indicate the donation is for the Newman family.