Crime and Police

Three arrested by Albuquerque police in connection with brutal murder of Native American woman

Audra Willis

Police in Albuquerque have arrested three people in connection with the brutal murder of a 39-year-old Native American woman who was fatally stabbed and found decapitated in the city’s foothills.

Police announced Wednesday they have arrested Andrew Garcia, 31, Eric Emerson, 30, and Damaris Marquez, 33, in connection with the killing of Audra Willis, in 2017.

The Associated Press reports, Garcia was arrested Monday and remained jailed Wednesday on suspicion of murder. Emerson and Marquez were both charged with tampering with evidence. They’re accused of disposing of Willis’ body.

Willis was the mother of six children. She was homeless on the streets of Albuquerque when her body was found in an arroyo behind some homes in the Four Hills area.

Court documents reveal Willis was in a car with the three individuals when Garcia also known as “Two Feathers”, suddenly killed her for no apparent reason.

According to KOAT, she was stabbed 9 times before being decapitated.

Police investigate the scene where a body was found with “massive trauma” in Four Hills. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Willis was from To’hajiilee, a section of the Navajo Nation. Her grisly death sent shockwaves through Albuquerque and stirred concern among advocates for the homeless and Native American community.

Native Americans victimized

In Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, Native Americans make up only 4 percent of the population, but account for 44 percent of people living without shelter, raising the likelihood they will be victimized when there is an attack on the homeless.

Last year, Ronnie Ross, a 50-year-old from the Navajo Nation town of Shiprock, was sleeping on the streets when he was shot a dozen times, including once in the forehead and temple, and four times in the back. Two teenage suspects charged with his murder apparently shot him “for fun” as they came and went from a hotel party nearby. His slaying prompted the city to announce plans to resurrect a Native American homelessness task force.

In July 2014, three teenagers, Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carrillo, 16, and Gilbert Tafoya, 15, viciously beat to death two homeless Navajo men sleeping on a discarded mattress in an empty lot in Albuquerque. The teens received sentences ranging from 20 to 67 ½ years in prison. Tafoya told investigators the boys had committed dozens of previous random attacks on homeless people.

Under New Mexico’s hate crime statute the homeless are not a protected class.

The family of Audra Willis said they are relieved arrests have finally been made and hope justice is served.

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