Published on: September 20, 2022, 05:06h.
Last update on: September 20, 2022, 05:36h.
Security video of a New Mexico woman apparently kidnapped from the Zia Park Casino Hotel racetrack near the Texas border is currently being reevaluated by investigators.
On Thursday, September 8, 2022, police responded to reports of a possible abduction in Zia Park. On September 9, the Hobbs Police Department released video provided by the casino.
It appeared to show a suspect chasing a woman in the casino parking lot, tackling her, then forcefully herding her into a silver Chrysler 300. The woman was quickly identified as Erica Martinez, 35, of Hobbs. Her alleged kidnapper was Jonathan Zaragoza.
Police asked for the public’s help, and CCTV and screenshots of the casino were shared on social media.
The camera never lies
On Saturday, September 10, officers spotted the silver Chrysler in the Carlsbad area, 70 miles southwest of Hobbs. They located Martinez and Zaragoza at a nearby property around 9 p.m. Martinez is unharmed.
Hobbs Police said in a news release Saturday that Martinez is being questioned and criminal charges against Zaragoza are pending completion of their investigation.
But police are now investigating whether the events depicted in the video may have been misinterpreted.
Zaragoza was not charged with kidnapping, according to court records seen by The Hobbs News-Sun. He was jailed at the Eddy County Detention Center for violating probation during a 2019 conviction for dealing methamphetamine and released on Wednesday.
He also violated probation terms in 2021 for charges of battery to a household member, interference with communications and property damage to a household member, according to court records.
Meanwhile, Martinez was arrested on an outstanding warrant after failing to appear in court on a July 2022 driving charge with an alleged license. She has since been released from prison and is due back in court on October 13.
But the crux of the matter may lie in a discovery made inside the casino during the investigation into the alleged kidnapping. A purse allegedly lost by Martinez contained several cards in her name, along with 226 fentanyl pills.
Investigators are now working on the theory that Zaragoza and Martinez fled Hobbs in a panic to avoid investigation and arrest, Carlsbad Police Department spokesman Capt. Jesse Rodriguez said. Rodríguez said News-Sun.
And what appeared to observers to be a terrifying kidnapping might in reality have been just a frantic attempt by one criminal to protect another.
According to the police, the investigation into the incident is ongoing. The video can be viewed on the Hobbs Police Department Facebook page.