By Kevin Wilson
Two bodies found in a burned car southeast of Portales on Thursday could be identified in two or three days. But law-enforcement officials are not releasing much more information in connection with the case.
“It’s strictly in the interest of not interfering with future investigation,” said New Mexico State Police Lt. Jimmy Glascock.
Officials have said long-time Portales residents Odis and Doris Newman have been missing since Wednesday. Their car was found about 8 a.m. Thursday with two bodies in the trunk. A fire also broke out Thursday afternoon at the Newmans’ home. Officials have said both fires were probably arson.
But police have not confirmed the Newmans are dead. They’ve not even declared the case a homicide. Glascock termed it a “suspicious circumstance.”
Chandler said Monday that police are conducting “a very thorough investigation. (Various law enforcement agencies) have saturated the area and are turning over leads continuously and they are aggressively investigating this case.”
City officials visited the Roosevelt County Senior Citizens Center on Monday, where the Newmans were regulars.
“We talked to them about not opening the door to strangers,” Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said. “We talked to them about not giving out their bank account numbers. We advised them to call us if they have any questions.”
Officials have said they have several leads in connection with the case. They’ve released a grainy photo of a man they say attempted to use the Newmans’ debit card at Portales’ ACCESSBANK on Wednesday night. They’ve also reported that someone driving a blue pickup belonging to the Newmans was seen at two Portales’ Allsup’s convenience stores on Thursday after the bodies were discovered.
The first report of the blue pickup, which has since been recovered, was at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday at the Allsup’s on 14th and Avenue D. A press release from Chandler’s office on Monday stated a person or persons of interest made a transaction at another Allsup’s location at 120 N. Chicago at 5:43 p.m. on Thursday.
Roosevelt County Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the case. At Monday’s monthly meeting, the members voted to authorize increasing the reward to as much as $2,000 if the case is not solved soon.
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said he felt “very confident” that law enforcement is doing everything in its power to make sure the city is safe, but said it is understandable if citizens are afraid.
“It’s very natural for folks to feel very frightened until they have an arrest,” Ortega said. “This is a scary thing because this is not something people are accustomed to.”
Portales had gone without a homicide for five years before 2004. If the two deaths are ruled as homicides, they would be the third and fourth in the last 10 months for the city.
“This incident is something that’s very unusual in our community. It’s a tragedy, and I hope we never see anything else like this again,” Ortega said.
PNT Staff Writer Tony Parra contributed to this report.