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Killings Trouble N.M. Resort Town

July 18, 2002

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TAOS, N.M. (AP) _ Authorities said Wednesday that they were seeking a parolee believed to have stolen a car belonging to one of two women slain in this resort community since last week.

Police said both women lived alone. Prosecutor Donald Gallegos issued a warning Monday to people in the area, especially single women.

State Police Lt. Rob Shilling said the stolen car was found Wednesday in Albuquerque, about 140 miles away from Taos. He said an arrest warrant had been issued for Richard Fresquez, a 23-year-old convicted burglar paroled in May, for taking the car and for parole violation.

Investigators said they were also looking for a teen-age girl seen with Fresquez in the last couple of days.

``We’re also anxiously looking for a 16-year-old female,″ state police Sgt. Michael F. Trujillo said. ``We’re concerned for her well-being.″

On July 9, deputies found Marioara Shand, 38, stabbed to death in her apartment in nearby Ranchos de Taos. The second victim, Leanne Martinez, 22, was found dead in her mobile home Sunday evening. It was her car that was missing.

The slayings have sent fear rippling through this artists’ colony that earlier this month was the site of Julia Roberts’ wedding.

``I can’t get my female employees to stay at work past 5 p.m.,″ said Susan Backus, owner of a folk art gift shop. ``They don’t want to be out at night. They’re afraid they’ll get stabbed.″

Angelina Vigil, 16, a sales clerk at a T-shirt shop, said she was raised to not walk anywhere alone at night.

``These events have been scary,″ she said. ``For me, to think that someone from this town is capable of such acts is unbelievable. The more I think about it, the more it worries me.″

Bernadine Herrera, who manages a gift shop, said she has a hard time believing such things are happening in her hometown.

``Forty years ago, you could leave your doors open and nothing would happen,″ she said. ``These days you have to lock everything because God knows what’ll happen.″

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