New Mexico police investigate killing of 4 on Christmas Day

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Four people found dead on Christmas Day in a home in an Albuquerque suburb were members of the same family and the case is being investigated as a murder-suicide, authorities said Thursday.

The victims were identified as Carlos Velasquez, 50; Marilyn Velasquez, 45; Roberto Velasquez, 22; and Adrian Velasquez, 14, police in the community of Rio Rancho said in a statement.

“This is a tragic event for the family and for the people in our communities. Our officers and detectives understand the impact this incident has on our entire city,” Capt. Andrew Rodriguez said in the statement.

He did not provide further details, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Rose Varona told KRQE-TV that she’s related to the people who lived at the home and that her brother and mother found the bodies. She said the family of four that lived at the home stayed up late Tuesday to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Varona said relatives on Wednesday started to become worried because they had not heard from the family, so her mother and brother went to the home and discovered the bodies.

“We just try to draw the strength from God, even though we don’t understand what’s going on,” Varona said.

Authorities cordoned off both ends of the residential street, where some homes were decorated with Christmas lights.

The bedroom community has been mostly immune from the violence that has made headlines in neighboring Albuquerque and elsewhere around the state in recent years.

New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate and its highest property crime rate in 2018, according to federal data released in October. New Mexico's largest city, Albuquerque accounted for more than half of the state’s crime overall, despite reporting slight decreases in violent crime and property crime for the first time in years.

Albuquerque this year marked a record number of homicides, even as the Democratic mayor and other politicians have been scrambling to curb the violence.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr earlier this month announced Albuquerque would be among seven cities around the county where the Justice Department will intensify federal law enforcement resources in an effort to drive down violent crime.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also has promised to take up more gun-control legislation during the legislative session that begins in mid-January. Efforts last year drew criticism from nearly all of the state's sheriffs, prompting some counties to declare themselves sanctuaries for gun rights.