Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Sandoval County Deputies investigate fatal crash near Algodones

~Keith Elder, Lieutenant, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office

On March 17, at about 4:00 p.m., Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputies were called to a two-vehicle fatal crash on the east frontage road just south of the Algodones overpass. The passenger Diane Schuler, 63, of Placitas, died from injuries sustained in the head-on crash, and the driver Craig Gibbs, 66, of Placitas, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the other vehicle was Robert Rutschman, 67, of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Both drivers were transported by ambulance for treatment of their injuries.

The Honda Odyssey driven by Gibbs was southbound on the frontage road just south of the Algodones overpass and the Ford Fusion driven by Rutschman was northbound. The vehicles collided nearly head-on while going through the curves near the overpass. Investigators say preliminary investigation shows Rutschman’s Ford Fusion drifted into the Gibbs’ lane of travel. Gibbs told investigators that Rutschman’s car looked like it was “going really fast.”

The crash is still under investigation, however, investigators said that Rutschman’s Ford Fusion speedometer was stuck at 65 mph. The speed limit on the frontage road in that area is posted 45 mph. Any alcohol use involved is still being investigated.

Men drown in apparent attempt to rescue dog

~Signpost Staff

The chill waters of an irrigation canal claimed three lives in March: two Bernalillo men and the dog they were trying to rescue.

The Sandoval County Sheriff's Office reports the bodies of Brian Lang, 59, Christopher Holland, 52, and the dog were found near U.S. Highway 550 shortly after midnight on March 2. The men were reported missing about seven hours earlier, Lt. Keith Elder told the Signpost.

Clothing and a second dog were located on the ditch bank adjacent to Ranchitos Road on Santa Ana Pueblo about a mile upstream from U.S. 550.

Elder said the men were apparently each walking a dog when one of the dogs somehow ended up in the water. Investigators surmise the men then tried to rescue it not realizing how cold and fast the water was.

"The first guy goes in and gets in trouble," Elder said. "Then the second guy goes in. Now all three are in trouble.

"When you go into that water that's in the upper-30s or mid-40s, it shocks your system so bad it doesn't take long for hypothermia to set in."

With irrigation season underway, the fast flow of the water and the steep banks of the ditch complicated any attempt to get out, he added. While the men are presumed to have drowned, the Office of the Medical Investigator will determine the official cause of death.

Lang, an Indiana native, was a biologist with an advanced degree in wildlife management who spent more than twenty years working for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, according to his obituary. He also was active in the soccer community.

News reports and online records indicate Holland was from Arkansas and recently moved to New Mexico where he was renting a casita on Lang's property.

Prescribed fire planned for McKinley and Sandoval Counties

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rio Puerco Field Office plans to conduct an approximately three hundred acre prescribed fire within the Ignacio Chavez and Chamisa Wilderness Study Areas from March 23 through April 7, weather permitting.

The area, known as Mesa Chivato, is west of Highway 550 and approximately 15 miles southwest of San Luis, New Mexico. During the burn, signs alerting the public to the prescribed fire will be posted along BLM Road 1103. Smoke may be visible from Highway 550.

Vegetation in the area consists primarily of ponderosa pine, piñon, and juniper trees. The goal of this project is to reduce tree density and thereby reduce the potential of catastrophic wildfire.

For additional details about this planned burn, contact Fire Management Officer Todd Richards at 761-8769 or Fuels Specialist Zach Saavedra at 761-8963.

Homicide suspect captured          

~Keith Elder, Lieutenant, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office

The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Alex Deaton has been captured near Ellsworth, Kansas. Suspect Deaton was taken into custody by the Kansas Highway Patrol without incident. Deaton was driving a car that was taken from a store clerk he shot in Pratt, Kansas. Deaton is currently incarcerated in the Wilson County jail.

Alex Deaton was being sought by Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office for kidnapping a couple at the La Luz Trail Head parking lot in Albuquerque and later shooting the male. The couple was able to escape from the trunk by using the emergency release handle in the trunk. During the escape, the male was shot as the female was forced at gunpoint to a nearby home. Deaton forced the residents to give him the keys to their van which was parked in the driveway. At the intersection of State Road 556 (Tramway Boulevard) and Forest Road 333 the female fled from the van towards a Bernalillo County Fire Marshall that was in the area. Deaton abandoned the van and took the 2001 White Honda Accord owned by the couple and fled north on I-25.

Deaton was wanted as a “person of great interest” in connection to a double homicide that included his girlfriend in Mississippi, and a third homicide involving the death of a another female in Mississippi.

A white 2012 GMC Acadia with Mississippi plates was found in the La Cueva Picnic Ground parking area. The vehicle is believed to be associated to a triple homicide in Mississippi. The vehicle is currently sealed and being held for forensic processing by investigators.

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