By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico
Investigators are beginning to believe fugitive homicide suspect Noe Torres is playing games and enjoying media attention in the three years he has evaded police.
Torres on Dec. 19 left a three-minute message on a voice mailbox at the Clovis News Journal. The message was discovered Tuesday morning when the reporter for whom it was intended returned to work from a vacation.
Torres is accused of shooting a 10-year-old Clovis boy three years ago. In his sometimes rambling recording, Torres said he’s innocent.
Investigators thought Torres was working toward a surrender, but after at least three calls to law enforcement in the last year, contact with a television crime show producer and, most recently, the message for the CNJ, District Attorney’s office investigator Dan Aguilar said it’s starting to look like something else.
“I almost want to say this has turned into a game for him. A notoriety thing,” Aguilar said Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m inclined to believe this is what he wants, he wants it out there. … He thinks it’s going to help him. … He’s eating it up. It’s a game to him.”
District Attorney Matt Chandler previously said Torres agreed to turn himself in to law enforcement in October but never showed. The meeting was arranged by Fox Television’s America’s Most Wanted producers.
Aguilar said investigators have not heard from Torres since.
In the voice mail left for the CNJ, Torres alleges corruption in the district attorney’s office. He said investigators threatened his family and made misleading statements to the press about negotiation attempts.
Torres seemed to be reading from a prepared statement in this latest message, maintaining his innocence in the September 2005 shooting death of Carlos Perez.
“I am not a murderer,” Torres said. “I fear God, not men. This false accusation has been blown out of proportion.”
Four others were convicted for roles in the fifth-grader’s killing.
Police said the boy was shot once in the head when a group of four men stood outside his bedroom window and fired nine shots through the glass as he slept next to his teenage brother.
Perez’s older brother was the intended target, police said.
In the call to the CNJ, Torres quoted scripture prescribing one should settle matters with his adversaries.
Torres said negotiations were initiated by investigators. He said they offered to dismiss unrelated drug charges and grant him visitation with his family and promised a free dinner.
“I never sought to negotiate my surrender,” he said in his message. “(District Attorney) Matt Chandler is the one who intended or offered to remove those drug charges if I offered to turn myself in for the false accusations made against my person in this case of homicide.”
Aguilar said investigators have attempted to communicate with Torres numerous times since the killing, often passing messages to him through family members.
Torres has misconstrued some of those messages, Aguilar said.
Aguilar said investigators asked family members to encourage Torres to surrender to local law enforcement because they could ensure an uneventful arrest and his safety.
“I know for a fact that he doesn’t have a violent past other than this murder,” Aguilar said, explaining he has dealt with Torres for years.
“(But) this is a nationwide deal. … Other people (law enforcement) don’t know that and are going to do what they have to to keep themselves safe.”
However, Torres has repeatedly told family, law enforcement and media that he has been threatened, Aguilar said.
“He has, I guess, little faith in the justice system,” Aguilar said.
The latest information on Torres’ whereabouts indicated he was in Friona around Thanksgiving, Aguilar said.
In the past three years, police have tracked his movements to locations throughout eastern New Mexico, West Texas and Mexico, he said, explaining, “we’ve been close to him.”
“We’ve told him countless times, ‘if you’re innocent the best thing to do is turn yourself in,’” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said it may take time to capture Torres, who police believe is receiving financial assistance from family.
“He’s an intelligent man, he’s not stupid. … Noe’s going to survive any way he can,” Aguilar said.
Others in the case
• Brothers Edward Salas, 24, and Demetrio Salas, 23, were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
• Edward Salas escaped from the Curry County Adult Detention Center Aug. 24 and remains at large.
• Orlando Salas, 16, at the time of the shooting, was sentenced as a juvenile accessory and will be eligible for parole at age 21. Orlando Salas was not believed to be present at the shooting.
• David Griego, 32, was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a 16-year sentence.
Noe Torres is 5-feet-4 inches and weighs 150 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes, and has a large eagle tattooed on his chest that nearly spans from shoulder to shoulder.
Police believe he may have shaved his hair and is disguising his tattoos to escape notice.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Torres can contact Curry County Crime Stoppers at 763-7000.
Torres is considered armed and dangerous. All callers remain confidential and Curry County Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.