ESPAÑOLA — As search parties frantically combed mountainous forests near Española on Tuesday in search of 5-year-old Renezmae Calzada, a law enforcement official said a man detained Sunday after the girl was reported missing has been in some type of relationship with the child’s mother.
Malcolm Torres, 25, was arrested on unrelated warrants from Bernalillo County, and though authorities would not classify him as a suspect in the girl’s disappearance, Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches said, “We are definitely interested in speaking to him more on this. We’re still trying to connect the dots.”
Sanches said investigators aren’t sure about the nature of the relationship between Torres and Renezmae’s mother, though Albuquerque TV station KRQE reported they have a son together.
According to court records, Torres’ has been arrested multiple times on drunken-driving charges — in Los Alamos County in 2014, Rio Arriba County in 2017, and twice in Bernalillo County in April and August of 2018 — and pleaded guilty in three of those cases. Records also show a shoplifting case and a charge of unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon onto school grounds in 2011, when he was a juvenile.
An arrest warrant was issued for him in August in connection with a DWI case.
As dusk fell on the Española Valley on Tuesday, authorities said they still had found no trace of Renezmae.
Nor do those officials know why the girl’s mother did not report her missing until about 6 p.m. Sunday; the last time the girl was seen in her front yard was at about 9:30 a.m.
Sanches said investigators are “still looking at that” as the search continues for the girl, who lived near the intersection of McCurdy Road and Fairview Lane in east-central Española.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said the agency is still coordinating with local law enforcement entities, and questions about the mother’s actions amount to “static” that distracts from the search.
Law enforcement officers, search and rescue staffers, and members of the public on Tuesday continued to scour the area around Renezmae’s home.
A man who said he is a member of the Calzada family said his relatives do not want to talk to news media until the girl is found. But, he said, dozens of searchers were helping the family look for her in the area of 31 Mile Road — a long, rocky route that leads into national forest territory just west of the city. The area is full of ponderosa pine and piñon trees, as well as prickly pear cactus.
Trucks bearing all-terrain vehicles for use by searchers could be seen moving up that road late Tuesday afternoon. Men and women on foot, on ATVs, in Jeeps and other vehicles could be seen traveling through the area.
Several people interviewed by The New Mexican said they would talk only if their names were not published because they wanted to honor the family’s wishes to not talk to reporters.
“I don’t know the girl, but I have two grown daughters, and if something like this happened to them, I don’t think I would want to live,” said a man near a mountain peak around the 12-mile mark on 31 Mile Road.
Below, one could see miles of smaller trails and an array of trees, bushes and arroyos — a dense landscape that looks easy to get lost in.
But the wild terrain is not discouraging searchers. The Rev. Michael Unzueta, workshop pastor for New Hope Worship Center, located a mile or so from the girl’s home, said residents are coming out in force to help in any way they can.
“One thing that is true of Española,” he said, “with a tragedy like this, when a child goes missing, this community comes together.”
Because not everyone has the means to go looking for the child, he said, “One message we can offer is prayer. Not just prayer to the family and for the little girl — that she be protected no matter what — but prayer for the search parties and law enforcement people out there, that they will have the sight and sound to find her.”
The Rev. Mike Naranjo of the Rock Christian Fellowship in Española agreed. “Not everyone can serve on a search party,” he said. “But we can value our children and grandchildren and love them.”
He had received calls from parishioners, some of whom know the girl’s family, asking how they could help, he said. He also knows some members of the girl’s extended family and has been in touch with them to offer comfort.
The Rev. J.D. Miera-Martinez of the Victory Faith Church in Española said more prayer and support will be needed after the girl is found.
“There will be long-term effects as well,” he said. “Some people think, ‘We find her and that’s that.’ But this will take an emotional toll on her family forever.”
Bobbie Gutierrez, superintendent of Española Public Schools, said Calzada was enrolled in Eutimio “Tim” Salazar III Elementary School. She said FBI agents came by the school Tuesday to interview staff members about the girl. The district gave searchers access to the Española Valley High School campus as a staging area Monday “as the neighborhood she was last reported as being seen is near the high school.”
There was no evidence of search teams staging out of the high school Tuesday morning.
Phaedra Haywood of The New Mexican contributed to this report.