Santa Fe police on Monday identified a man found dead late Sunday morning under a downtown bridge as 37-year-old Aaron Chapman.
Investigators have not yet made any arrests in the homicide case and were still searching for suspects late Monday, police Capt. Paul Joye said, adding authorities believe Chapman, whose autopsy was conducted Monday, died from blunt force trauma at the site where his body was found.
Joye would not elaborate on Chapman’s death.
“We do have people that we have been interviewing, but no suspects at this time,” he said. Investigators are also looking into whether surveillance video from area businesses captured anything related to the incident.
Police found Chapman’s body along the Santa Fe River under the Guadalupe Street bridge, next to the De Vargas skate park, around 11:15 a.m. Sunday. The area was cordoned off, and traffic was diverted for hours.
Initial 911 dispatch reports suggested the man’s body had been found with his head and hand cut off, but Joye said that was not true. “Nothing was cut off,” Joye said.
Joye said police have had some encounters with Chapman.
“Right now we believe him to be homeless,” Joye said, adding Chapman previously lived in Los Alamos. Court records show he had been charged with several drug- and property-related crimes, and that he was involved in recent divorce and child custody proceedings.
According to police, initial reports of Chapman’s death came from a man sitting on a bench in De Vargas Park, across from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, who had seen the body and approached three city Parks and Recreation Department employees who were switching out trash bags nearby.
Officers who arrived at the scene met the “distraught” city employees, who led them down into the river near the bridge on South Guadalupe Street, police reports said.
Later, police spoke with a man who said he had heard a man and woman arguing in the area.
Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, according to reports, homicide detectives interviewed a woman in her 20s who was sitting under a tree Railyard Park off Cerrillos Road, wrapped in a blanket.
The woman “was rocking back and forth” and yelling, reports said. She was detained on suspicion of assault on a police officer and taken to the police department, but later was released.
Austin Shipp, 23, of Santa Fe said in a phone interview Monday he had been walking by the skate park around 12:45 a.m. Sunday and heard a woman “wailing.” He said he saw the woman emerge from a stairway by the river, near where the man’s body later was found, and then heard a man’s voice.
“She didn’t seem like she was in any sort of trouble,” Shipp said. He spoke with police about the incident after hearing a body had been discovered there, he said.
“We spoke to that gentleman,” Joye confirmed. “That’s certainly something that we’re looking into.”
The bodies of two other people were found earlier this year in the Santa Fe River, but police did not consider those deaths suspicious.
Chapman’s death is the fifth homicide in Santa Fe this year — and the third in the downtown area.
In mid-July, 33-year-old Matthew Corral was found shot dead at West De Vargas Street and Don Gaspar Avenue three blocks east of where Chapman was slain. Corral’s homicide remains unsolved. Just 10 days earlier, Tejano singer-songwriter and state Public Education Department employee Ernestine Saucedo was found fatally shot in an SUV outside the agency’s downtown headquarters with the body of her husband, Jessie Saucedo, who police say took his own life after killing her.
Earlier this month, Beverly Melendez, 64, was arrested on a second-degree murder charge in the fatal shooting of Rodrigo Garay, 19, who had been attending a house party on Hopewell Street near a home on Quapaw Street where Melendez was living.
And in April, 16-year-old Hunter Woods fatally shot 39-year-old Ricardo Magana, his mother’s boyfriend, in his mother’s apartment on Lorca Drive. Woods was sentenced last month to two years of probation and ordered to complete a treatment program.
Ken Kordich, owner of The Good Stuff — a bookstore, record store and coffee shop at the corner of West San Francisco and Guadalupe streets — said he now cautions people, particularly parents with young children, about the downtown area near the Santa Fe River. He suggested in a phone interview Monday the city consider putting cameras near bridges and install lighting along the river.
“As a resident who lives nearby and who owns a business close to the skate park and the Santa Fe River, I am concerned about a number of recent incidents, of bodies being found and homicides, and what seems like an increase in more violent crime activity in the area,” Kordich said. “I would like to know that the city’s being proactive in trying to keep it from getting worse.”