By Todd Wildermuth, Public Information Officer, Roswell Police Department
In every homicide case, the quest for justice includes a thorough investigation of the crime scene, following up on any immediate leads and then tracking down further information as the investigation progresses so the pieces of evidence can be pulled together with the goal of the arrest of the perpetrator and a successful prosecution in court. The Roswell Police Department has had great success this year in making those arrests with efficiency thanks to the dedicated efforts of its various personnel contributing to each multi-faceted investigation.
Through September, RPD handled 10 homicide cases, including one vehicular homicide, in 2020. In one case, two people were killed, bringing the year’s victims total to 11. Among the 10 cases, arrests have been made in nine of them. In six of those cases, the arrest was made the same day of the crime or the next day. The three other homicide arrests came within four, five and eight days of the crime.
Chief Phil Smith says that efficiency is generated by the teamwork of the department’s front-line officers, detectives and crime-scene technicians. The first-responding officers carefully document the incident, the scene and initial witness statements in their reports. The Technical Services Unit evidence-collection team does meticulous work to capture every detail at the site of a homicide and any other locations related to the case. The case is then moved forward by the thorough investigation techniques and processes – witness and suspect interviews, obtaining and executing search warrants, composing an extensive affidavit to get a court-approved arrest warrant – carried out by the detectives in the Criminal Investigations Division (CID). All these components are vetted by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office that handles the prosecution of each case once the RPD investigation is complete and a suspect is identified and charged.
Detective Gino Basile has been the CID’s homicide detective since last December. He stepped into the role after gaining much experience and expertise from former homicide detective Robert Scribner, who retired this year.
Det. Basile says having one detective designated to focus specifically on homicide cases is important because it “allows for the time necessary to conduct thorough investigations.” However, he credits the teamwork among all the CID detectives as playing just as important of a role when it comes to getting homicide suspects in custody quickly.
“We have developed our Criminal Investigations team to operate smoothly during these investigations,” Det. Basile says. “Each detective is assigned different tasks throughout the investigation. As a team, we are able to work efficiently and effectively, which has been producing great results.”
Chief Smith agrees, noting Det. Basile “enjoys great support from the entire CID unit,” as all detectives have participated in the homicide investigations “as a cohesive team unit.” Working with Det. Basile on that CID team are detectives Natalie Mendoza, Yancy Darby, Brandon Stroud, Humberto Loya, Tan Nguyen and Mark Meraz. The CID is led by Capt. Kim Northcutt and Sgt. Ryan Craine.
This year’s 90-percent homicide-case arrest rate “shows a dogged resolve by our investigative unit and evidence-collection teams, front-loaded by a very efficient first-line response,” Chief Smith says. He also points to “outstanding training” within the department and the CID.
The only homicide case this year that has not yet resulted in an arrest is the first case of 2020. A quick arrest was made difficult because the suspect is believed to have fled to Mexico immediately after the homicide, but he was quickly identified and a warrant obtained by the CID not long after the early January homicide. Jorge Rico-Ruvira is charged in the strangulation of Isela Mauricio-Sanchez, the mother of Rico-Ruvira’s young son whom he is believed to have taken to Mexico with him. The FBI is using its international resources to try to locate Rico-Ruvira.
Of the other nine homicide cases in 2020, with arrests made in all of them, eight were the results of shootings and one was a vehicular homicide involving a pedestrian struck by a speeding vehicle. Each of these cases is currently making its way through the court system, with murder charged in five of them, manslaughter in three of them (two of these were determined to be accidental shootings) and the one vehicular homicide.
RPD has had solid arrest rates in recent years – 67 percent in each 2018 and 2019 – but this year’s 90-percent mark through nine months has reached a new level. And that level could not have been obtained without the help of citizens.
“In order for a successful homicide investigation that will lead to the identification and arrest of an offender, we need cooperative witnesses,” Det. Basile says. “Most cases that go unsolved are because we did not have the cooperation of the people that have information about the murder. Our citizens must demand justice for these victims and come forward with any and all information.”
Chief Smith offers residents of the Roswell community a “heartfelt thank you” for the key role they have played in providing critical information that has led to homicides being solved and arrests being made. He hopes other people will also come forward with information that could aid in bringing justice to the victims and families of homicides from previous years that RPD and its Criminal Investigations Division are still pursuing.
“The Roswell police are only as strong as the support we receive from the Roswell community,” Chief Smith says. “Your support and assistance is what ensures the most efficient crime fighting and city-building team efforts.”