Suspect Says Priest Made Pass at Him

By Steve Terrell
Santa Fe New Mexican (New Mexico)
May 9, 1997

Investigators say suspect, held on $ 1 million bond, switched clothes with victim

In a scenario hauntingly similar to last year's killing of Noah Rodriguez, the man accused of killing the Rev. Armando Martinez has told his family that the victim provoked him to violence by making a homosexual advance.

Dennis Norman Carbajal, 38, was arraigned Thursday in Sandoval County Magistrate Court on an open count of murder and charges of stealing a car and tampering with evidence.

His bond was set at $ 1 million, Prosecutor Joanna Aguilar said.

The suspect's brother, Lawrence Carbajal of Cuba, N.M., said Thursday that his sister spoke with Dennis Carbajal before he turned himself in to Sandoval County authorities Wednesday night. Dennis Carbajal told his sister that he reacted violently after Martinez, a former priest, made a pass at him.

"He can't handle something like that," Lawrence Carbajal said.

"I think he had to be provoked. I don't think he'd just go out and do something like that, just kill someone. I think something might have happened."

In the Rodriguez case, suspect Arthur "Bozo" Lopez who is scheduled to stand trial next month has told police that he stabbed Rodriguez after the teacher made a pass at him in Lopez's Coronado Road home in October.

Lopez, according to police affidavits, claimed Rodriguez was the first to pull a knife. He also claimed to have snorted cocaine with Rodriguez, although an autopsy showed no drugs in the teacher's system.

Lawrence Carbajal mentioned the fact that Martinez retired from the priesthood after being accused in 1993 of sexual conduct with a minor. The accusations, which prompted a lawsuit, regard an alleged incident that occurred 20 years ago, Archdiocese of Santa Fe officials have said.

Dennis Carbajal is a career criminal who has been convicted on at least six felonies since the early 1980s. His most recent conviction was for slashing a Cuba woman in the face with a razor in a convenience-store parking lot in 1994.

Dennis Carbajal turned himself in to Sandoval County authorities Wednesday night at the urging of his family, Aguilar said.

Aguilar said the suspect spoke with investigators, but she declined to talk about the nature of the conversation.

According to Sandoval County Sheriff's Department investigators, after beating Martinez to death in the Jemez Mountains, Dennis Carbajal took the former priest's clothes and put them on.

According to the affidavit, which was written to obtain an arrest warrant for Carbajal, detectives found several items of bloody clothing Sunday beside Martinez's naked body off N.M. 4 in the Valle Grande area.

Among the clothes were a pair of denim knee-length shorts and a pair of British Knights high-top tennis shoes. The affidavit does not mention a shirt, socks or underwear being found.

The shorts were covered in blood and had the left side torn out, which is consistent with a struggle, the affidavit said.

However, detectives do not believe the shorts belong to Martinez. His waist size was 38, while the shorts found near the body were size 32.

Witnesses saw Carbajal and Martinez in the area on Saturday.

"Due to the clothing being covered in blood, it is believed that Mr. Carbajal exchanged clothing with Mr. Martinez in an attempt to hide evidence and hinder prosecution," the affidavit said.

The affidavit tells how a vehicle carrying five people stopped about 8:30 p.m. Saturday on N.M. 4 when a man ran in front of the vehicle swinging his arms.

A passenger said the man was pale and had blood all over his face and hands. He begged for help, but then a younger man in blue denim shorts approached the car and said, "Don't listen to my friend; he's drunk and he doesn't know what he is saying."

The younger man pulled the older one away from the car, which pulled away and drove off.

One of the occupants of the car later identified a police photo of Carbajal that was displayed with five other photos.

Another driver on N.M. 4 observed what police believe was the violent confrontation between Martinez and Carbajal.

A Los Alamos man told investigators he saw a man with blood all over his face being chased down the highway by another man who was driving a green car.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.