kidnapped woman dangerousness hearing

Leann Romero (seated), Brenton Rael (foreground), and Kevin Gonzales (right) will each remain in custody pending trial for the Feb. 28 kidnapping and attempted murder of a woman in Española.

Three people are in custody awaiting trial for allegedly kidnapping a woman in Española over allegedly stolen drugs Feb. 28, dousing her with bleach to destroy evidence, injecting her with heroin with the intent to overdose her, and pushing her off a bridge into the Rio Grande.

Brenton “B-Dog” Rael, 44, of La Madera; Leann Romero, 27, of Santa Cruz; and Kevin Gonzales, 41, of Hernandez, were all charged in the case.

The alleged victim testified at a dangerousness hearing March 6—against the protests of defense attorneys—that she crawled out of the river and called police from a stranger’s house before being taken to the New Mexico State Police District 7 office.

As the hearing began, defense attorneys who were ready to cede the issue of their clients’ dangerousness asked that First Judicial District Court Judge Jason Lidyard not allow the alleged victim to testify because they said she appeared to be under the influence of heroin and nodding off in the courtroom.

They also said they had not been given adequate time to prepare to cross examine her, having only been assigned the cases the afternoon before the morning hearing.

The victim said she had not smoked heroin since the afternoon before and was merely tired from sleepless nights due to the trauma, and Lidyard allowed her testimony, which a State Police officer said was remarkably consistent with the statements she made the night of the incident.

Romero and Rael each face charges including kidnapping, aggravated battery, tampering with evidence, and two counts of assault. Gonzales was charged with kidnapping, assault, tampering with evidence, and possession of a controlled substance.

Gonzales’ attorney Dorie Smith floated the theory that her client was afraid of Rael, for whom he acted as a drug runner.

The victim alleged that as she was going to meet a friend, Rael and Romero, then a stranger to her, forced her into a car at gunpoint, beat her, blindfolded and choked her, and took her to Gonzales’ home—which she recognized from previous times she had bought drugs from them.

Rael reportedly guarded her while the other two ran an errand.

“(Rael was) asking me, ‘If I were in his shoes, why do I deserve to live?’” the alleged victim testified. “How do you explain to someone why you deserve to live?”

When Gonzales and Romero returned, they reportedly discussed how to kill her.

“B-Dog says, ‘I know what we can do—we can overdose the b----, she’s never shot up before,” she testified. “‘It’ll be just like another overdose. Nobody will look into it. Nobody will suspect anything.’”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Anastasia Martin seized on this alleged statement later in the hearing.

“She heard these three individuals talking about how they were plotting and planning her death, that they were going to make it look like an overdose, and that no one in this community would care about it because she was a drug addict,” Martin said. “The State cares about it, the State is asking the Court to hold these individuals in custody.”

After deciding to overdose the victim, the defendants then allegedly forced her into the shower and dumped bleach over her head while the water ran, in an attempt to destroy evidence.

The defendants then took her to the Yungue Owingeh Foot Bridge, where Romero reportedly shot her up.

“I was taking too long to die, so they decided to throw my body in the river,” she said.

She said she floated for several minutes after hitting the water, hoping the trio would believe she was dead, before she crawled out to safety.

The victim said she had not bought drugs from Rael and Gonzales in about a month and that Rael wrongfully believed she stole drugs from him.

State Police Agent Cruzita Romero testified that officers recovered some of the victim’s clothing, a bleach bottle, tape with apparently human hair, and a syringe with heroin residue from Gonzales’ home. She also said the victim immediately identified Leann Romero in a photo lineup.

Leann Romero’s defense attorney Todd Bullion questioned the apparently minimal physical injuries documented on the victim on the night of the incident, which he and other defense attorneys indicated was inconsistent with being physically beaten, doused in bleach, and thrown into a shallow portion of river.

The court granted an oral motion by the defense to take new photographs of the alleged victim where she was injured, mandating State Police to take the photos within 24 hours.

Defense attorneys blocked the admission of a statement Leann Romero reportedly made in a Las Vegas, N.M. jail cell after her March 4 arrest, but a court filing indicates she admitted to the acts of the night of the incident.

Rael netted a new criminal case upon his arrest. When State Police stopped him at a gas station, they allegedly found a handgun in his car and substances allegedly consistent with methamphetamine and heroin in his pockets. He faces charges of felon in possession of a firearm and two charges of possession of a controlled substance in that case.

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