The endangered murder case

Walter Donlon, 87, was a wealthy retired educator. In October 2005, an employee, Marvin CdeBaca, reported an emergency at Donlon Northside Santa Fe’s home.

“We need an ambulance,” CdeBaca told the 911 operator. “Walter is 88… he fell and smashed his head,” CdeBaca said in the taped phone conversation.

CdeBaca later claimed that Walter Donlon fell in his office and hit his head on the TV. Bleeding and unconscious, the elderly owner was rushed to the emergency room in Saint-Vincent.

According to Santa Fe Police Detective John Boerth, as Donlon was on the hospital bed being sutured and stapled for injuries to the top of the scalp, he woke up and said: ” They beat me. ”

“They asked him ‘Who beat you?’ and he just said again, ‘They beat me.’ After that he passed out again and never regained consciousness, ”Detective Boerth said.

Ten days later, Walter Donlon died of his injuries.

Was it a domestic accident or something else? Detectives have launched a massive two-year investigation amassing boxes of financial documents, a room full of physical evidence, and a detailed forensic analysis. The conclusion? Walter Donlon’s death was no accident.

How did Walter die?

Almost from the start, detectives were suspicious of the claim that Walter Donlon was injured in a fall. “Was it an accidental fall or was it something else?” Said Santa Fe Police Detective Tony Trujillo.

Marvin CdeBaca told detectives Walter Donlon was apparently sitting in his chair when he got up, fell and hit his head.

Detective Trujillo said the autopsy results did not match the victim’s head banging against a TV. “He had a linear skull fracture. There were three lacerations at the top of his head, ”Detective Trujillo said.

State Police investigator Paul Chavez (now retired) was called in to analyze the crime scene. Among his finds? No blood on or near the TV. In fact, an analysis of the traces of blood revealed that Walter Donlon had been brutally assaulted in his chair. “Mr. Donlon was undoubtedly beaten to death in his home,” Chavez said.

“The results of the scan were that Walter was sitting in his chair when the beating was done to his head, which subsequently killed him,” Detective Trujillo said. “Walter Donlon was murdered.

Who killed Walter Donlon?

Who would brutally murder a frail and elderly man sitting in his chair?

Walter and his 94-year-old wife Teresa had accumulated a net worth of approximately $ 10,000,000 from investments and rental properties in Santa Fe. Shortly after Walter’s death, police investigators discovered suspicious transactions involving the Donlon’s financial accounts. A team of state accounting specialists from the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue was called in to analyze Donlon’s banking and investment records. Their discoveries? Someone had stolen large sums of money from Walter and Teresa. The main suspect was Marvin CdeBaca. CdeBaca was Donlon’s property manager, and this is the same man who called 911 in October 2005 claiming his employer had been in a domestic accident.

“There was a long history spanning perhaps 20 years of Marvin CdeBaca’s embezzlement of Donlons bank accounts as well as investment accounts,” said Santa Fe Police Detective John Boerth.

Detective Boerth says the evidence indicates that “Marvin CdeBaca funneled money from Donlon’s bank and investment accounts and put it into his own accounts … hundreds of thousands, if not over a million dollars.” It was a lot of money.

Armed with a mountain of evidence including financial audit, crime scene analysis, witness statements and search warrants, detectives named a suspect in the case: Marvin CdeBaca.

Detective Tony Trujillo summed up the findings of the two-year investigation based on the evidence. “Marvin CdeBaca made a career out of… taking money from the Donlons. It got to a point where his luck turned when Walter found out he was doing this. Walter was going to fire him because of it. Marvin CdeBaca saw his cash cow come out the door and he wasn’t going to let that happen, ”Detective Trujillo said.

“I think what happened was Walter had to die. I have no doubt about that,” said Trujillo. The Santa Fe Police Detective says he thinks the motive of Donlon’s murder was “sheer greed”.

The prosecution

Detectives turned their investigation over to the Santa Fe District Attorney for prosecution. However, days before the case was heard by a grand jury, proceedings were postponed due to an emergency in the prosecutor’s family. This was in 2007. The case was never rescheduled.

Over the next 12 years, the case would shift from prosecutor to prosecutor. Eventually, the file disappeared and a succession of district attorneys lost track of the Walter Donlon murder case. 13, she never saw the police file, and no member of her staff brought the Donlon case to her attention.

In an interview in April, current Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna said: “We are still reviewing this case.” However, the prosecutor admitted, he had not seen the police file. “I can tell you my office doesn’t have the file,” Serna said in April.

Serna said his office “… never received a complete file from the Santa Fe Police Department.” SFPD detectives say the full record of evidence in the Donlon case was turned over to the district attorney’s office in 2007.

Shortly after Marco Serna took office in 2017, he called a meeting with the attorney general’s office to discuss Donlon’s homicide. Serna said he is looking for additional resources to help pursue the case. A spokesperson for the attorney general told KRQE News 13 that there was a meeting in 2017 with Serna and his team. However, AG spokesman David Carl said the Santa Fe district attorney never followed up on the meeting with a formal request for assistance.

Retired career attorney Steve Suttle said it was “incomprehensible” that a district attorney should lose an important case. “You would think it would be a priority file,” Suttle says. “Especially in a small office where there aren’t many homicide cases. It’s not like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles where they have thousands of pending cases.

“It’s a matter of public duty,” Suttle said. “There is neglect there. There can be no other explanation I can think of for a case to go through three or four different district attorneys and never go through a… Grand Jury presentation, ”Suttle says.

After the April interview with KRQE News 13, DA Serna finally recovered a copy of the Donlon file from the Santa Fe Police Department. Serna says the case is under review.

Due to the 12-year time limit, none of the financial crimes alleged in the police investigation can be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.

In a 2007 report, the main suspect in this case, Marvin CdeBaca, claimed his innocence, saying: “I am not guilty. Today, CdeBaca lives in Rio Rancho where he would work as a handyman. To date, no charges have been filed against Marvin CdeBaca.

The Santa Fe Police Detective told KRQE News 13 he “hopes” that justice will be served in the Walter Donlon murder case. He says New Mexicans have been waiting 12 years.

“We have failed miserably,” said retired state police investigator Paul Chavez. “We have a real victim who was murdered, and the system let him down,” Chavez said.

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