Taos sheriff names suspect in woman’s murder

Ivan Dennings Cales

TAOS — Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the search is on for a man investigators allege killed a woman whose remains were found in a shallow grave Dec. 25 near Carson.

Ivan Dennings Cales, 50, was charged last week with first-degree murder in the death of Roxanne Houston, 33.

Friends of Houston said Cales had lived at the Carson-area home that Houston shared with her boyfriend and others.

Hogrefe confirmed that investigators from the Taos County Sheriff’s Office had interviewed Cales early in their investigation and had seized his Jeep Cherokee on Jan. 29 to conduct forensic tests. When the vehicle was seized, however, it had already been sold to another local resident, and the sheriff said Cales is likely to have left New Mexico.

“We do not believe that Cales is still in the Taos area and have asked the U.S. Marshals Service to take the lead for the manhunt,” Hogrefe said, indicating the search will stretch across state lines.

Cales is originally from West Virginia, the sheriff confirmed.

Information that appears to have been posted by Cales to an online forum indicates he moved to Taos in the summer of 2014.

In one online community, Cales said he was heading to Taos in hopes of starting a new life, introducing himself as a “survivalist but not the nut job hoarding food and ammo type” and touting experience in construction as well as gardening.

Cales is described as 6-foot-2 and weighing approximately 220 pounds. He is reported to sometimes walk hunched and with a cane due to back problems.

It was not immediately clear when Cales and Houston might have met or how long they may have known each other.

A criminal complaint filed in the 8th Judicial District Court by Detective Robert Salazar alleges Cales murdered Houston on or about June 13.

Hogrefe said Friday that Houston died of a gunshot wound.

Hikers on the mesa found remains in a shallow grave Dec. 25. The remains later were identified as Houston’s.

However she arrived there, friends and neighbors agreed it was an inglorious resting place for a woman remembered for her compassion.

Houston worked as caregiver for a neighbor and was also said to have lent a hand distributing food to Carson-area residents.

The mother of four, Houston is originally from the Colorado Springs area, where the two youngest of her children live with her parents, law enforcement officials have confirmed. Houston’s other two children reportedly live with their fathers.

Houston often spoke of building a home and bringing her children to the Carson area, said neighbor Sunshine Harper.

Houston reportedly moved to the Carson area with a boyfriend in 2013. The couple are said to have camped before moving in with friends for several months and then into another home they shared with several men.

Vendors at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge said Houston sometimes sold art and crafts at the landmark.

Friends described her as highly educated with an organized and regimented demeanor.

Though Houston was characterized as strong and remembered by friends for sometimes wearing military fatigues, Harper nonetheless described her as seemingly innocent.

“I wouldn’t say naive because she was a very intelligent, smart woman,” Harper said. “But she had no inkling what evil is out there.”

Harper said she last saw Houston in June while driving down a dirt road. Houston was walking toward town with a backpack, she recalled. Harper said she stopped to speak with her.

“Roxanne said she’d be back,” Harper said.

Houston was reported missing to New Mexico State Police the following month.

The sheriff declined to elaborate Friday on why he thought Cales may have killed Houston.

The affidavit for an arrest warrant on a first-degree murder charge was sealed. Hogrefe cited a need to preserve evidence and protect witnesses.

“When Cales is captured and arraigned, we will not oppose the affidavit being unsealed and made public,” Hogrefe said. “But until then, I believe it is the appropriate thing to do to protect those involved and the integrity of the case.”

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call Taos County Crime Stoppers at 575-758-4258.

This story was first published by The Taos News, a sister paper of The Santa Fe New Mexican. Contact Andrew Oxford at aoxford@taosnews.com.

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