The boyfriend of slain Taos Pueblo artist DeAnna Autumn Leaf Suazo has reportedly been arrested and charged with murder in connection with her death.
Suazo — considered a rising star in the contemporary Native American art world — was found dead on the ground outside her home on the pueblo Nov. 13.
A criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque doesn’t mention the artist by name but charges Santiago Martinez with killing a 29-year-old woman — identified only as Jane Doe — on the pueblo on the same date Suazo died.
Suazo’s father and Martinez’s mother declined to comment Thursday, but the Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that a family member had confirmed Suazo is the Jane Doe identified in the complaint.
FBI agents responded to Taos Pueblo about an hour before dawn Nov. 13 after being contacted by Taos Pueblo Police Chief Summer Mirabal regarding a deceased woman found outside.
Mirabal told an agent Martinez had said he and Suazo were listening to music in her vehicle when he went inside the residence to put wood on the fire, then came back out to find her body lying outside the vehicle unresponsive.
Martinez did not call 911 or police, the complaint says, instead calling members of both of their families “to tell them she was gone.”
Multiple family members who arrived thereafter called 911 and attempted life-saving measures until an ambulance arrived, according to the document.
The complaint says Martinez denied killing Suazo at the scene but admitted to an FBI agent during a follow-up interview Monday that “he was the one responsible” for her death and “he was the one who hurt her.”
Martinez told the agent Suazo wanted to leave and he did not want her to leave, according to the complaint.
Martinez told the agent he “took it way too far,” “hit and shoved” her and “was angry and got in the car and pressed on the gas and hit her,” according to the complaint.
He said the couple — who had been dating for 10 years, according to the complaint — had drunk 16 beers and some tequila shots and smoked two “bowls” of marijuana leading up to the incident.
Suazo’s body had multiple injuries, with signs of blunt force trauma to her head, broken ribs, bruising lacerations and what appeared to be a pattern-type injury “which could be consistent with a vehicle tire being left on her chest,” according to the complaint.
Family members told investigators the couple had a history of domestic violence.
One family member described the relationship between them as “toxic” and said Martinez would get “hysterical” when he consumed alcohol, the complaint says.
The couple had gotten into a physical altercation last winter during which Martinez had locked Suazo in a room, pinned her to the ground and choked her, the witness told the FBI, and the couple had broken up for two weeks.
Another witness said Martinez was “a jealous person who did not handle alcohol well,” the document says.
Federal investigators obtained search warrants for Suazo and Martinez’s cellphones, and located “text messages of interest” from Nov. 5 in which Suazo appeared to be attempting to break up with Martinez.
According to the complaint, she wrote, “I’m not saying this because I’m mad, I’m saying this because it’s how I’ve been feeling for a long time now. We really need to take a time from each other. I’m not in the right place to be in a relationship with you.”
“Even when we try to have fun, usually something happens between us, and that reinsurers that I’m not happy,” she reportedly wrote. “I need time to work on my priorities, my work and school. Being around you everyday prevents me from doing all of that.”
Suazo graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in studio arts and was admitted to IAIA‘s inaugural master in studio arts in summer 2021.
Suazo’s art — multimedia paintings influenced by ledger art created by Plains Indians and Japanese anime — had been exhibited at the Southwest Association for Indian Arts annual Indian Market, the Heard Museum Indian Market and Fair, the Autry Museum Artist Market, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Artist Market and elsewhere.
Federal public defender Devon Fooks was appointed to represent Martinez, according to online court records. Fooks did not respond to a call seeking comment Thursday.