ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - A grand jury has indicted three Albuquerque teens for first degree murder in the beating deaths of two homeless American Indian men, which shocked New Mexico’s biggest city.
Kayla Anderson, spokeswoman for the Albuquerque District Attorney’s Office, said the grand jury took the decision late on Tuesday in the case of 18-year-old Alex Rios and two other suspects aged 16 and 15.
Police say the teens found the men sleeping in an abandoned lot and attacked them with kicks, punches, and blows from cinder blocks, leaving the pair so badly disfigured it took days for the medical examiner to identify them.
A third man was also wounded in the July 18 attack but managed to flee and was treated in hospital, investigators say.
The two younger teens are being charged as Serious Youthful Offenders, Anderson said in a statement, meaning their cases will proceed through the District Court’s Criminal Division as though they are 18 or older.
According to police, one of the teens told detectives they had beaten more than 50 people in random attacks over the past year.
Following the killings, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley denounced them as a hate crime and called for a federal investigation.
Anderson said no such motive had been found.
“According to police, there is no indication that the teens sought out their victims based on race and therefore, hate crime charges were not presented to or returned by the Grand Jury,” she said.
Rios is being held at the adult Metropolitan Detention Center, while the two younger teens are at a juvenile detention facility. All three are being held on $1 million bond.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry set up a task force after the killings to try to address the problem of chronically homeless American Indians in the city, whom studies show are more at risk than others from street violence.
Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler