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Woman Dies in Fire After Robbery; Deputies Wounded in Shootout

May 9, 1995

VIRDEN, N.M. (AP) _ Two intruders forced a 60-year-old man to snort and swallow drugs at gunpoint, looted his home and set a fire that killed his wife.

Two deputies investigating the case were shot. Later, two suspects were arrested.

David J. VanHorn, 20, of Gilbert, Ariz., and Diane L. Wilson, 22, of Chandler, Ariz., were charged with murdering Norma Clouse. A magistrate on Monday ordered them held without bond.

They were also under investigation in the shooting of the deputies, one of whom was critically wounded in the head.

The intruders forced Merlin Clouse to load his valuables into the Clouses’ car and truck, then drove away before dawn Sunday from the house in Virden, a town of about 200 people near the Arizona state line.

The armed intruders kept the Clouses from escaping the fire by standing in front of the only escape, said a statement of probable cause filed Monday in Hidalgo County Magistrate Court.

``Only after flames engulfed the residence did the defendants leave the scene, at which point Mr. Clouse was able to escape after repeadly unsuccessfully attempting to save his wife,″ the document says.

Neighbor Antonio Burrola said he was woke to find his Clouse’s house burning and Clouse, smoke-blackened and barefoot, shouting: ``Help! I need help! They robbed me! The house is on fire and Norma is in there!″

``He told me he tried to get her out, but she had just had surgery, and he couldn’t get her,″ Burrola said.

Neighbors said gunshots were fired at their homes as the Clouse home burned.

``I was standing in the hall, and my wife had just walked by the door with the kids when a bullet came through the glass,″ said Sammy Gonzales. The family spent the night huddled in the back bedroom.

Clouse’s nephew, Dr. Max Germaine, said Clouse was forced to take a white powder identified by blood tests as a mix of an opiate, such as cocaine, and methamphetamine, also known as speed.

Clouse was released Monday from a hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation and burns.

District Attorney Tony White said he had no information about reports that the intruders who ransacked the Clouses’ home had come in ranting about a soured drug deal.

``I’m not willing to speculate on a motive at this point,″ White said, adding that he discounted the idea that any involvement with drugs led to the attack on the Clouses.

At daybreak Sunday, two deputies investigating the case confronted a suspect in the bottom of a canyon where they spotted what they thought was the couple’s pickup truck.

Gunshots were exchanged and two deputies were wounded, authorities said. One was critically wounded in the head; the other was listed in stable condition with a shoulder wound. VanHorn and Wilson were arrested separately later in the day.

The Clouses’ car was found at the Virden landfill, but White said the couple’s pickup was still missing Monday. VanHorn was caught driving a pickup stolen from another Virden-area resident, White said, adding that the suspects will face numerous felony charges.

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