Police: Murder suspect told landlord he killed Taos coffee shop owner

Gregg Steele

TAOS — Close friends, acquaintances and employees of 51-year-old Gregg Steele, the man accused of killing popular Taos coffee shop owner Patrick Larkin, said Steele often seemed to be teetering between boiling resentments and physical violence.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit charging Steele with second-degree murder and three other felonies connected to the Larkin’s death, he confessed to crossing that threshold late last month, when he told his landlord he had shot and killed Larkin, 63, in the early morning hours of Aug. 27 in Llano Quemado.

The landlord, who said he had rented to Steele property adjacent to Larkin’s over the summer, told his attorney Steele had admitted to shooting Larkin twice with a handgun, the affidavit said. Steele then confessed to loading Larkin’s body into a truck, driving it around Taos for hours before disposing of it, and then hiding the murder weapon and a .22-caliber rifle he had stolen from Larkin, according to the affidavit.

New Mexico State Police found a goat mauled to death in Larkin’s yard the morning he went missing. A day later, they found Larkin’s body hidden in a bush a mile and a half from his home on Cuchilla Road. Larkin had two gunshot wounds — one to the knee and another to the chest. An autopsy performed by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator later recovered a .45-caliber bullet from his body.

After seizing Steele’s pickup and obtaining a warrant to search it, the affidavit said, agents also found blood matching a sample of Larkin’s DNA in the bed of the vehicle and on the driver’s side door.

Early in the investigation, as agents canvassed the surrounding area to speak with neighbors, they found Steele was the only resident who wasn’t home and would not answer phone calls. During their interviews, the affidavit said, they learned Steele’s dogs were known to harass goats Larkin had been raising on his property.

As part of the investigation, state police agents interviewed several other people in Taos County who knew Steele and said he could be dangerous. Employees said Steele had told them about prior crimes he had committed in California and said he had expressed a desire to “burn down houses of those he perceived to have wronged him,” according to the affidavit.

A friend in Questa said Steele had asked him to provide an alibi for him to say he was away from the Llano Quemado area around the time of Larkin’s death, according to the affidavit.

An ex-fiancée said she had a recording of Steele talking about wanting to murder an ex-girlfriend and bury her body in the woods.

“In interviews with nearly all of Mr. Steele’s friends, and associates, multiple agents were advised that Mr. Steele was unhinged and had a propensity for violence, ” the affidavit said.

Steele has been known to go by a number of aliases, including Greg, Gregory and Stirling.

A 1996 article by George Johnson of the New York Times said a man named “Gregory A. Steele” from Taos was one of two people who turned themselves in after starting an illegal campfire near Bandelier National Monument that sparked a major wildfire. Authorities have not confirmed whether the man charged in that case is the suspect in Larkin’s death.

The 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to hold Steele without bond. A hearing on the motion will be held in state District Court in Taos, though a date has not been set.

This story first appeared on the website of The Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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