On July 10, Calvin Kelly, a 21-year-old, was shot to death during an alleged robbery attempt in a Northeast Albuquerque parking lot. Kelly’s body was found face down in the parking lot of “The Retreat” at Candelaria apartments, near Morris, around 6 a.m. He had been shot in the back with a high-caliber rifle. Police say a passerby found Kelly on July 10 around 6 a.m. in the apartment complex.
On December 5, 2019, then 17-year-old Albuquerque High School Student Gisell Estrada was arrested and charged with the murder of Calvin Kelly. It is a murder she played no part in. She had never been arrested before and had absolutely no criminal arrest and conviction record, misdemeanor nor felony. She spent 6 full days in jail on a case of “mistaken identity.”
A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY
According to news reports, APD homicide detective Jessie Carter was in charge of the homicide investigation of Calvin Kelly. Detective Carter joined APD in 2008 and in 2017 joined the homicide unit. Carter was able to identify 4 possible suspects that were eventually arrested: Alexis Pina, 17, Jassiah Montoya, 15, Adam Cazares, 31, and Cazares’ girlfriend Cynthia Salgado.
One of the suspects, Cynthia Salgado, told Detective Carter she and 3 others conspired to rob Kelly in a plan she said was masterminded by a teenage girl named “Lexi,” later identified as Alexis Pina. According court pleadings filed, Salgado told Detective Carter that Pina was homeless and on drugs and described her as short and chunky with “one lazy eye.”
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Pina was the “mastermind” of the robbery. Pina knew Calvin Kelly through FACEBOOK and she lured Kelly to her and the other 3 under the guise of needing a ride. Police say the 4 tried to rob Kelly outside “The Retreat” at Candelaria apartments complex and, when he tried to run, Cazares shot him in the back with a high-caliber rifle. The arrest warrant affidavit filed in Metropolitan Court alleges that Cynthia Salgado told a detective a girl she and Cazares knew as “Lexi” proposed the robbery after seeing Kelly with a significant amount of cash on Facebook.
The lawsuit alleges that Detective Carter took photos from FACEBOOK profiles for Alexis Pina and her FACEBOOK profile said Pina went to Highland High School. Gisell Estrada went to Albuquerque High School. Carter showed Alexis Pina’s profile photos to an Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) resource officer in the hopes of identifying her. The APS employee cooperated but mistakenly identified Gisell Estrada as Alexis Pina. Detective Carter did no follow up with witnesses to confirm the identification of Gisell Estrada nor her involvement with the murder of Calvin Keller. Detective Carter made no personal nor phone contact with Gisell Estrada nor her parents to confirm her identity.
17 YEAR OLD GISELL ESTRADA CHARGED WITH MURDER
On December 5, 17-year-old Albuquerque High School Student Giselle Estrada was charged by a criminal complaint with the murder of Calvin Kelly. The criminal complaint was “sealed” in Juvenile Court meaning no one had access to it nor able to read it without the court unsealing it for review. A warrant was issued for Estrada’s arrest. A private defense attorney contacted Estrada by mail to see if she needed a defense attorney. The lawsuit states that Estrada and her mother were “in disbelief” as the private attorney wanted to charge $60,000 to defend Estrada in a murder case. According to Estrada:
“I had no idea what this was about, the charges were sealed so I didn’t know what I was accused of.”
Contact was made with the Public Defender for defense. Public Defender Todd Farkas was assigned to defend Estrada and told Detective Carter multiple times that his client was not the girl they were looking for and charging for murder. Carter told Farkas to give him any information to clear Estrada’s name because he “did not want to put the wrong person in jail.”
The sealing of the complaint left Estrada’s Public Defender attorney blind to the detailed fact allegations against her and all they knew was the charges. According to Estrada’s Public Defender Farkus, the sealed complaint and the homicide’s detective’s unwillingness to share any case details, including the victims’ names, witnesses and dates, left the Public Defender’s Office no choice but to advise Estrada not make any statements to police and to turn herself in. Estrada, following the advice of the Public Defender turned herself in.
On November 8, Estrada was booked into the juvenile detention center on an open count of murder, armed robbery and conspiracy charges in the July 10 slaying of Calvin Kelly. APD Detectives for their part said Estrada’s refusal to speak left them with no choice but to book her on the charge of murder and jail her once she turned herself in.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office then filed a motion to detain Giselle Estrada until trial alleging:
“The community is not safe if she is not detained. … There are no conditions of release this court can impose which will prevent her from planning another robbery or prevent someone else from dying.”
A full 5 days after Estrada turned herself in and was booked, another suspect in Calvin Kelly’s homicide, Jassiah Montoya, 15, as he was being led to his cell, told Detective Carter “You have the wrong Lexi, I just spoke to her yesterday”. The next day, Estrada was released on her own recognizance and Carter then turned his attention to Alexis Pina as the prime suspect.
Notwithstanding the motion for detention, Estrada was released a full 6 days later after she was arrested and the charges were dismissed. Review of the motion for detention, it is clear it contains “boiler plate language” with the District Attorney’s Office failing to conform the motion to the actual facts of the case.
After her release, Estrada said she struggled to catch up in school, her reputation was damaged and she alleges in her lawsuit she is still undergoing counseling. Estrada has graduated from Albuquerque High School and is pursuing an education in cosmetology.
Estrada said she experiences flashbacks from her false arrest and ordeal in jail and gets nervous when she sees an officer driving behind her and claims she is afraid she will be arrested. Estrada says of her ordeal:
“It’s not really how I used to be, it changed me. I feel like I have to remember everything, like I’m reliving everything. … “I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else, this is not something you should make a joke [of], this is something very serious and really hard to go through.”
Link to source material quoted:
ACLU FILES CIVIL LAWSUIT
Fast forward to Thursday, December 3, 2020. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on Estrada’s behalf seeking unspecified monetary damages against the City of Albuquerque. The lawsuit alleges that APD Detective Carter’s actions amounted to a false arrest and deprivation of state constitutional rights.
According to the lawsuit filed, Gisell Estrada is shy, soft-spoken teenager, who does well in school and who has never been in trouble. She has never been arrested before and has absolutely no criminal record or arrest record and no convictions of any crime, misdemeanor nor felony. It is alleged she spent 6 full days in jail on a case of “mistaken identity.”
The lawsuit filed alleges that in the criminal complaint, Detective Carter did not mention any of the details as to how Gisell Estrada was identified leading to her charges and arrest. In the arrest warrant affidavit, Detective Carter wrote that Alexis Pina and Gisell Estrada “look extremely similar in date of births, facial features and body type among others” . The lawsuit alleges that, unlike Pina, Estrada was born with only one thumb and it was something Carter could have easily verified. Estrada’s cellphone records also placed her at her home at the time of the homicide.
According to the lawsuit, Detective Carter “misled the district attorney and court” by writing that Salgado identified Estrada when Carter did not show Estrada’s photo to Salgado to confirm he had the right person. The lawsuit alleges:
“Detective Carter knew that Ms. Salgado did not ‘positively identify’ [Estrada] as a person involved in Mr. Kelly’s murder. If that single sentence was removed from the document, nothing else within would explain how [Estrada] was identified as the offender, who was known by a different name.”
According to the Public Defender’s Office, Carter’s unwillingness to share case details led them to advise Estrada to not make a statement to police and Estrada decided to turn herself in which in and of itself caused extreme emotional stress.
The lawsuit alleges:
“Her family was afraid that if she did not turn herself in, the police would come to her home and arrest her violently. That night at home, nobody could sleep. The whole family cried all night, wondering what was going to happen.”
According to the civil lawsuit complaint, Estrada’s arrest by APD was only the beginning of an emotional ordeal that has left her emotionally scared. After being booked, Estrada spent a full 7 days in jail and she alleges she was “strip-searched several times” and treated like a “guilty person.” According to Estrada, the 7 days she spent in jail were the first nights she had ever spent away from home. The lawsuit alleges that during her stay in jail, Estrada was “too nervous to eat” and spent her nights “awake in her bunk, wondering if she would be free again.” Family visits were full of tears and the guards wouldn’t let her mother hold her hand.
ACLU Attorney Alvarez Hernandez who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Estrada had this to say:
“Because the true criminal was still out there [at the time of Estrada’s incarceration] and they could still hurt people, this lack of thoroughness and investigation doesn’t just affect the person directly, it affects our entire community. [What happened to Gisell Estrada was a] nightmare born of the incompetence of those who have sworn to protect and serve her. … The ordeal that APD put Gisell Estrada through was nothing short of horrific. The system failed her at every turn. … Sloppy police work from an APD detective meant that Gisell … was torn from her family’s loving arms and placed behind bars for a week.”
ACLU Attorney Alvarez Hernandez said the lawsuit is being filed to provide Estrada peace of mind and had this to say:
“[The lawsuit is being filed] to clear her name and build up her confidence, because every time she goes to a job interview, she’s self conscious as to whether they would want to hire her, whether they’re going to think that, despite the fact that [the charges were] … dismissed, that she actually had something to do with the murder.”
Gisell Estrada for her part said of her arrest and incarceration:
“It changed me. … I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else. … It destroyed me, my parents, my family’s life, by just misidentifying me. … I really thought I was going to be [in jail] … for the rest of my life because I know that these types of cases take forever to solve.”
APD INCREASES SIZE OF HOMICIDE UNIT
As of Friday, December 17, there have been 75 homicide cases in 2020. The city has had 4 homicides in December and its likely there will be more by the end of the year. Of the 75 homicides, half remain unsolved. There are only a dozen homicide detectives with caseloads high above the national average.
On December 17, the Albuquerque Police Department announced plans to improve its homicide unit. APD is adding extra support staff, detectives, and new training. APD is adding 2 more detectives, totaling 12 for the department. An extra sergeant and acting commander will also be assigned to look over cases as well.
HOMICIDE DETECTIVE ACADEMY
During the December 17 press conference, APD announced it was creating a new detective training academy for all detectives, not just those in the homicide unit. The department will be bringing in veteran police officers with experience, working with younger detectives who are also “tech savvy.” According to APD officials, every detective in the department will go through specialized training. For some officers that includes homicide investigations. APD’s goal is to have the Detective Academy running by next summer.
APD Lt. Hollie Anderson had this to say:
“We not only need good trained detectives and a supportive chain of command, but we also need the community to participate and assisting us in solving these issues.”
APD says they’re also working more closely with prosecutors and investigators in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office and at the New Mexico Attorney General’s office.
The link to the news source is here.
In making the announcement of changes at APD, Interim Police Chief Harold Medina addressed crime trends over the last three decades had this to say:
“Albuquerque’s homicide rate is way too high. … They generally swing very drastically over time. … There are many factors that contributes to our homicide rates—economic reasons, domestic violence, drugs, and illegal narcotic sales. Access to firearms. …
One thing that we’ve learned over the past couple years is we struggle with investigations as a department, and we want to improve our ability to conduct these investigations, but in order to do that we have to put the threat tools in the toolbox so to speak for our officers and our detectives. It’s search and seizure issues developing strong criminal complaints, understanding crime trends, so we could tie more crimes together and get a bigger impact for when we arrest somebody who’s a serial burglar for example. ”
APD CLEARANCE RATES
FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate 194% higher than the national average. Albuquerque has been on the forefront of the trend on violent crime increasing for the last 5 years and homicides have more than doubled. In 2014, the city had 30 homicides and each year thereafter homicides increased and in 2019 the city had 82 homicides, the most in the city’s history.
As of December 17, there have been 75 homicides reported in Albuquerque for 2020. With 75 murders thus far for 2020, the city is on track to once again to match or exceed the all-time record of 80 homicides in one year or come very close to it by the end of the year.
The FBI reports that the national homicide clearance rate is 61%. In 2019, APD’s clearance rate was 52.2% when the city reached 80 homicides in one year. In Albuquerque, so far the clearance rate is again at 52% for 2020. It more likely than not the clearance rate will fall even further in 2020 as more murders occur.
SOURCE OF CLEARANCE RATES
The city’s APD yearly budget contains performance evaluation statistics mandated by the city’s “performance evaluation” based budget. According to city budget documents, APD’s homicide clearance rate reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report was 80% from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2016. In 2018 and 2019, the percentage of homicides solved by APD dropped to 52%. That number reflects homicides that weren’t deemed justifiable. The overall clearance rate for 2018 and 2019 was is slightly higher because detectives solved 9 homicides from prior years.
For the past 3 years during Mayor Keller’s tenure, the homicide clearance percentage rate has been in the 50%-60% range. According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017, under Mayor Berry the clearance rate was 70%. In 2018, the first year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 56%. In 2019, the second year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade.
APD HOMICIDE HAD SPECIALIZED TRAINING IN SUMMER 2019
One year ago, on December 26, this blog published the article “All Time Low APD Clearance Rate; Charging And Jailing An Innocent Child For Murder; Can Lead Homicide Unit To Water But Refused To Be Trained”. The article was emailed to Mayor Tim Keller, the APD Chief and all the Deputy Chief’s.
This blog reported in the December 26, 2019 blog article that sources confirmed that the firm “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services” were retained in the summer of 2019 year on a three-month, sole source contract for $75,000 to train the APD homicide unit on investigations, evidence gathering and follow-up. All APD sergeants, detectives and lieutenants, who investigate and supervise violent crime investigations, were given the training. A total of 126 APD personnel went through and completed the training and instructions provided by a former retired APD homicide detective now with “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services”. The former APD Detective has been involved with investigations of high-profile murder cases in the country.
Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services reviewed the arrest warrant regarding the 17-year-old high school girl Gisell Estrada arrested and jailed for a murder she did not commit because of a case of mistaken identity by the APD Homicide unit. Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services concluded it went against everything APD officers had been trained on.
The firm stated they could provide no reason why the homicide division made such “colossal” mistakes contrary to all they had been trained and the arrest could have been prevented had the detective followed basic follow up practices to confirm identity. Instead, the detective ran with the information he had without even an attempt to verify, either out of being lazy or incompetence.
APD HOMICIDE UNIT HAS SHAMEFUL HISTORY OF BOTCHED INVESTIGATIONS
The APD Homicide Unit has a dubious history of botching any number of high-profile murder investigations. The APD Homicide Unit has compiled a history of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations completely wrong and even arresting innocent people.
A listing of homicide investigations reflecting negligence include:
2005 to 2008: Robert Gonzales: A a mentally retarded young man was arrested by APD and charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old neighbor. Weeks after the arrest DNA evidence confirmed Gonzales was not the offender. The Homicide and the Bernalillo County DA never turned this evidence over to the court and defense attorneys. Only after Gonzales spent 965 days in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and and only after he was released by the judge was the DNA evidence exposed.
2007 to 2011: Michael Lee and Travis Rowley, working as a group of salesmen, were arrested and charged with the murders and rape of an elderly Korean couple. Both Lee and Rowley had below normal IQs. Lee confessed to the murders, Rowley did not. Shortly after the arrests, DNA evidence excluded both men and confirmed that Albuquerque serial killer, Clifton Bloomfield was the offender. APD and the DA kept both men locked up for over a year before they were released.
2015 to 2016: Christopher Cruz and Donovan Maez are wrongly arrested for the murder of Jaydon Chavez Silver. They spent10 months in jail before the Bernalillo County DA reviewed the entire case sent to them by APD Homicide, finding that there was no evidence that Cruz and Maez were involved. APD Homicide is alleged to have fed witnesses information for them to repeat in interviews and threaten witnesses to provide false information.
10 YEAR OLD VICTORIA MARTENS MURDER
The most egregious negligent murder investigation was the murder investigation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens. On August 24, 2016, she was murdered, dismembered and here body was burned in a bathtub. The initial APD Homicide investigation alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens, the child’s mother, watched the murder.
Gonzales was accused of drugging, raping and killing 10-year-old Victoria. After further investigation, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez was forced to abandon the prosecution’s theory of the case and forced to drop the rape and murder charges against Gonzales. DA Torrez then accused Gonzalez of helping his cousin dismember the body of 10-year-old Victoria Martens after the child was reportedly killed by an unidentified man who was looking for Gonzales for revenge.
It was revealed that Jessica Kelley did not murder the child. Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes. Forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder, they did not participate in the murder and that there was an unidentified 4th suspect in the case who committed the murder with supposedly DNA evidence found on the child’s dead body. The unidentified 4th suspect in the case is still at large.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
One would be inclined to break out laughing to the point of tears if it were not so damn pathetic that Interim Chief Harold Medina would actually say:
“Albuquerque’s homicide rate is way too high. … One thing that we’ve learned over the past couple years is we struggle with investigations as a department, and we want to improve our ability to conduct these investigations, but in order to do that we have to put the threat tools in the toolbox so to speak for our officers and our detectives.”
No “S_ _ _ Sherlock!” when Medina says “Albuquerque’s homicide rate is way too high” which has been the case now for the last 10 years!
NO EXCUSE FOR MEDINA’S INGNORANCE
Truth be known, Interim Chief Harold Medina has learned nothing over the past 3 years while he was a Deputy Chief and then First Deputy Chief. For those full 3 years he knew what was going on with the homicide unit. Only now that he is Interim Chief trying to become permanent that he tries to tell everyone that it is he that has come up with a solution of training. Medina continues with his false narrative that all that is wrong with APD now is the fault of former APD Chief Michael Geier. It was Medina who orchestrated Geier’s departure with the help of CAO Sarita Nair.
There can be little or no doubt that Medina was aware that the firm “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services” were retained in the summer of 2019 year on a three-month, sole source contract for $75,000 to train the APD homicide unit on investigations, evidence gathering and follow-up. All APD sergeants, detectives and lieutenants, who investigate and supervise violent crime investigations, were given the training. A total of 126 APD personnel went through and completed the training and instructions provided by a former retired APD homicide detective now with “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services”.
DOUBLE THE SIZE OF THE HOMICIDE UNIT TO 24
Soon after Mayor Tim Keller took office on December 1, 2017, he increased the homicide unit from 5 to 11. APD is now adding one more making it 12. This is the most detectives they’ve had in the unit in more than 20 years. The homicide clearance percentage has sat in the 50%-60% range for the past two years, but this is lowest clearance rate in the last decade. According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017 the clearance rate was 70% and the clearance rate for 2018 was 56%. The clearance rate is now below 50%.
The longer a homicide case takes to complete an investigation or is neglected because of lack of personnel, the less likely the cases will be solved and prosecuted. Adding to the crisis is the emotional toll an unsolved murder takes on the families of the victims. Now we have collateral damage with false arrests such as Gisell Estrada.
Because of the sure number of homicides and the pathetic homicide clearance rate, the Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be increased from 12 detectives to at least 25 detectives. Far more needs to be done with respect to recruiting and training. APD is in a crisis mode and it needs to concentrate on recruiting seasoned homicide detectives from other departments if necessary. At the very least, APD needs to ask for temporary assignment of personnel from other agencies such as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department or the New Mexico State Police to help clear out the cases.
Mayor Tim Keller refuses to recognize the fiasco the APD homicide unit has become, even after he was encouraged almost 2 years ago to do something. What’s even worse, Keller has declined to hold the unit responsible for incarcerating an innocent 17-year-old girl for murder. Now that Keller is running for another term, maybe he will finally act and show more leadership and more backbone and less public relations and make sure that 17 year old’s are not charged with murders they did not commit.
A link to a related blog article is here: