Posted on: September 20, 2022, 05:06h.
Last updated on: September 20, 2022, 05:56h.
Security video of a New Mexico woman apparently being kidnapped from the Zia Park Casino Hotel Racetrack, close to the border with Texas, is now being reevaluated by investigators.
On Thursday, September 8, 2022, police responded to reports of a possible kidnapping at Zia Park. On September 9, the Hobbs Police Department released video provided by the casino.
It appeared to show a suspect chasing down a woman in the casino parking lot, tackling her, and then forcefully bundling her into a silver Chrysler 300. The woman was quickly identified as 35-year-old Erica Martinez from Hobbs. Her suspected kidnapper was Jonathan Zaragoza.
Police asked for the public’s help, and the video surveillance and screenshots from the casino were shared on social media.
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 in a nearby property at around 9pm. Martinez was unharmed.
Hobbs police said in a media release Saturday that Martinez was being interviewed and that criminal charges against Zaragoza were pending the completion of their investigation.
But police are now examining whether the events depicted in the video might have been misconstrued.
Zaragoza has not been charged with kidnapping, according to court records seen by The Hobbs News-Sun. He was booked into the Eddy County Detention Center for violating probation on a 2019 conviction for meths trafficking and released Wednesday.
He also violated probation terms in 2021 on charges of battery on a household member, interference with communications, and property damage to a household member, court records show.
Meanwhile, Martinez was arrested on an outstanding warrant after she failed to appear in court on a July 2022 charge of driving with a suspended license. She has since been released from jail and is due back in court on October 13.
But the crux of the case may lie in a discovery made inside the casino during the investigation into the suspected 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 Zaragoza and Martinez fled Hobbs in a panic to avoid investigation and arrest, Carlsbad Police Department Capt. Jesse Rodriguez told The News-Sun.
And what appeared to observers to be a terrifying abduction could actually have been a frantic attempt by one criminal to protect another.
Police say the investigation into the incident is ongoing. The video can be viewed on the Hobbs Police Department Facebook page.