Woman arrested in crash that killed 2, including N.M. police officer
The crash killed Officer Robert Duran and Frank Lovato, a retired firefighter who was driving a pickup truck and not involved with the pursuit
SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico woman was arrested after authorities say she caused a crash that killed an officer and retired firefighter and then lied about having been kidnapped.
Jeannine Jaramillo, 46, faces charges including two counts of first-degree murder, authorities said in a news conference Saturday. After a pursuit, the Wednesday crash on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe killed Officer Robert Duran, 43, and Frank Lovato, 62. Lovato was a retired firefighter from the northern New Mexico city of Las Vegas who was driving a pickup truck and not involved with the pursuit.
Jaramillo had initially said she had been carjacked at knifepoint, according to authorities, and she was released after being treated at a hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening.
She was arrested Saturday, according to a New Mexico State Police news release, after evidence submitted to a lab Friday showed she was the sole driver of the stolen vehicle involved in the crash.
DNA found on the airbag belonged to Jaramillo and evidence showed there was only one person inside at the time of the crash, according to New Mexico State Police.
Search warrant affidavits filed to seek DNA and evidence from Jaramillo's cellphone said a police officer saw a woman get out of Jaramillo's car but no other person, news outlets reported Friday.
She also faces charges of reckless homicide by vehicle, receiving and transferring a stolen vehicle, and tampering with evidence, according to the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office.
“I believe the arrest of Jeannine Jaramillo has made our community safer,” said Tim Johnson, chief of the New Mexico State Police. “Her actions put the entire public in danger and took the lives of two dedicated public servants.”
Police had said after the crash they were searching for a suspect described by Jaramillo as a man she'd dated briefly and that he had abducted her from an apartment complex following an argument. But authorities said her story was “suspiciously similar” to her statement in a September 2021 case, when she reported that a man held her against her will with a knife to her neck and he hid on the floorboard.
She was charged at the time with receiving a stolen vehicle, aggravated fleeing and possession of methamphetamine, authorities said.
KOB-TV and other news outlets had reported that court documents said Jaramillo twice previously was involved in pursuits in Cibola County in September and October. She had told officers she had been carjacked but no other person was found.
Prosecutors dismissed both cases “pending further investigation.”
Jaramillo had told KOB-TV Friday that she was abducted, feared for her life and didn't see the man get out of her crashed car because she blacked out briefly.
“I crawled out the driver side window, I fell to the ground and I looked up and there was the police, and I just ran for my life, and I was screaming, ‘help me,’” Jaramillo said. “I’m crying, I was hysterical, I was in shock.”
Jaramillo had said it was wrong to suggest she was alone in the car.
“I think people should understand that, when you are involved in a situation like that, I don’t think that it is right for them to say things that have their opinion, like that, until they are in a situation like that themselves,” Jaramillo said.