ESPAÑOLA — Rio Arriba County authorities said Monday they had arrested a man who might be connected to the case of a 5-year-old Española girl whose disappearance sparked a massive search.
Sheriff James Lujan didn’t release the name of the person taken into custody around 9 p.m. Sunday — about the same time New Mexico State Police issued an Amber Alert for Renezmae Calzada — but said police were investigating whether the man should be considered a suspect in a “child endangerment” case.
“We are trying to establish whether there’s a connection” between the man and the missing girl, Maj. Randy Sanches of the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office said Monday of the man’s arrest on three outstanding warrants from Bernalillo County. He said he could not say where police detained the possible suspect.
Law enforcement officials provided few details about the search, nor what may have led to the girl’s disappearance. Asked if he believed Calzada is still alive, Lujan said: “I can’t comment on that.”
Lujan also would not comment on evidence gathered in what he called “an ongoing investigation.”
The girl was last seen by her mother in the front yard of their McCurdy Road residence about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. The mother did not report her daughter missing until about 6 p.m. Sunday.
The sheriff said investigators don’t believe the girl’s disappearance involves her parents. Lujan and James Langenberg, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Albuquerque, said investigators have interviewed family members and friends.
“We are looking at every angle,” Langenberg said.
The sheriff and Langenberg said at a Monday afternoon news conference that federal agents were helping with door-to-door canvassing of the neighborhood to talk to residents.
They said officials from other law enforcement and public safety organizations — including the search-and-rescue team attached to New Mexico State Police, tribal police and a Bernalillo County police helicopter — were taking part in a wider search for the girl.
“There’s a lot of people out there,” Lujan said.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said in an email Monday that time is of the essence. “We have a little girl who’s missing,” he said. “Every second counts.” He said Monday’s search would not stop once night falls.
While it is not common for FBI agents to get involved in an Amber Alert situation, Langenberg said “it’s not unusual” for the FBI to support local law enforcement agencies in such cases.
“No crisis is more urgent than that of a missing child,” he said. “Our main concern is to find that young lady.”
The FBI set up a staging point at Ohkay Hotel Casino north of Española, where the regional office of the American Red Cross was providing snacks and drinks to the estimated 100 to 150 volunteers searching for the girl.
Kathy Segura-Salas, executive director of American Red Cross regional offices, said her agency’s role was expected to last at least one more day and possibly longer, depending on the status of the search. She said she saw searchers “coming and going to get snacks and water” all day Monday. She said Red Cross workers also are providing comfort to Calzada’s family.
Langenberg repeated a request for the public’s help in finding the girl, asking people living near her residence who have surveillance cameras on their property to review any footage.
“You may have caught something,” he said.
McCurdy Road is a long, semi-rural street on the east side of the town dotted with houses and trailers and the occasional business.
Calzada was last seen wearing blue shorts with stars and a Disney Frozen shirt. She has black hair and brown eyes, is 4 feet tall and weighs about 35 pounds.
Information for the search
Law enforcement authorities ask that anyone with information about the disappearance of 5-year-old Renezmae Calzada contact the Rio Arriba Sheriff’s Office at 505-753-5555.