Third man arrested by Las Cruces police in weekend homicide

Robert Pena Shooting collage IDs[41040]_1559942264406.JPG.jpg

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – A third man has been arrested in connection with the death of man found on the side of a Las Cruces road.

Gabriel Ray Salaiz, 21, was taken into custody Thursday in Silver City and is facing charges of murder, kidnapping, attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and tampering with evidence, the Las Cruces Police Department said in a news release.

The charges are in connection with the death of Robert Pena, 28, who was found dead on the side of Esperanza Street by a passerby at about 1 a.m. on June 1. Earlier this week, his father, Patrick Salaiz, 43, and Sonny Sierra, 25, were arrested earlier this week on similar charges.

“Investigators learned that on Saturday afternoon, Pena’s girlfriend, who is also from Silver City, went to the Silver City Police Department where she divulged what occurred the night of the shooting,” police said in a news release. “Police in Silver City contacted Las Cruces police who conducted further interviews and obtained evidence that led investigators to file charges against the three suspects.”

Investigators believe Gabriel Salaiz, Patrick Salaiz, Pena and Pena’s girlfriend drove from Silver City to Las Cruces to meet Sierra near Walmart, 15550 S. Valley Dr. 

“Investigators believe all five drove around, arguing about a drug debt before the car returned to the parking lot where Pena allegedly struck Sierra with a handgun,” police said in the release. “The two struggled for the gun before Sierra gained control and fired one round that struck Pena. Sierra fled around the back of the Walmart store. Salaiz and the others remained in the white 4-door car and drove to Esperanza Street where they removed Pena’s body before returning to Silver City.”

Pena’s girlfriend said she asked the men to take Pena to a hospital, but they “refused and forced her to stay in the car,” police said.

“Investigators obtained video surveillance from Walmart and positively identified Sierra as being involved in the crime,” police said in a release. “Sierra was charged with a first-degree felony count of murder and one second-degree felony count of shooting at or from a motor vehicle.”

Gabriel Salaiz is being held at the Grant County Detention facility while his father is held at the Dona Ana County Detention Center. 

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