Survivors recount dark day brothers Carlos and Joe Baca were found brutally tortured and murdered inside their Albuquerque medical cannabis grow house. They refute officials’ suggestion of cartel hit, say double murderer may be on the loose in New Mexico.
By Tom O’Connell
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 10, 2017 – It must have been a surreal scene to walk into. How does a wife process the horror of the handcuffed corpses of her husband and his brother, shot in the head and covered in bloody puncture wounds?
Just a few hours before, on that Tuesday, May 10, Carlos Baca had cooked breakfast for the family, like any other weekday, and then dropped his two daughters off at school. He’d posted a rare selfie of himself and the girls to Facebook. They were all smiling. It was going to be another beautiful New Mexico spring day. But soon he’d be dead, and a family set adrift, after he met up with his brother Joe at a plain ranch home in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights.
Around noon, Carlos’s wife, Frankie, arrived at the crime scene with Joe’s girlfriend to pick up Carlos for lunch. They got worried when no one answered, so they kicked down the door of the rental home the brothers were using to grow legal medical marijuana. Then they walked into hell.
“The bullet hit the brain stem and instantly killed him.”
“According to autopsy reports, Carlos was shot twice in the head [with a .22] and the bullet hit the brain stem and instantly killed him, and they shot him again in the back of the head to make sure he was done for,” said Yvonne Baca, a surviving sister who claims she saw autopsy reports and also examined her brothers’ bodies at the mortuary. “He had duct tape on his mouth and he was handcuffed. Joe was handcuffed as well, but he was stabbed over 20 times. He was stabbed repeatedly in the neck with a knife and a screwdriver.”
Local media reported the suspicions of APD and DEA investigators that it was a hit by an international cartel. The three survivors Burque Media spoke with said that’s a desperate theory and that law enforcement and the media are doing a lousy job with this case. They said they have a pretty good idea who the killer is, that he’s not in a Mexican cartel and that a double murderer is probably walking free. And he may have walked away with more than $100,000 from the empty safe reportedly found in the garage.
Carlos and Joe, 29 and 31, respectively, had both gotten their medical cannabis grow licenses based on PTSD diagnoses stemming from their violent and abusive upbringing, according to paperwork obtained for one of the brothers. They were entrepreneurs who owned Good Times Fun Jumps, a bouncy house and party supply rental outfit, and Dad’s Automotive. They were known for their philanthropy, supporting a number of organizations, including Joy Junction, YAFL, Little League and Ride for the Cure.
A close friend of Carlos, Derek Wright (a pseudonym, since he wishes to remain anonymous), said he was crushed by the murders, and that he “went from being the biggest advocate for helping people to ‘fuck everybody.’ It hurts, man. That was a bad, horrible day.”
Wright was shocked by the way the media reported the cartel theory, as if it were not mere speculation but fact.
“Now these kids are going to grow up hearing that their dads were killed by a cartel.”
“At this point, we feel there may be an international nexus with Mexico,” the Albuquerque Journal quoted DEA agent Sean Waite. Waite also said that cannabis and other drugs are trafficked from Mexico to the Southwest: “There is certainly a demand for high-quality marijuana.”
But why would the brothers need Mexican marijuana when they were growing their own?
Wright thinks the drug-trafficking stigma will follow the Baca children their entire lives. The brothers had nine children between them.
“Now these kids are going to grow up hearing that their dads were killed by a cartel and were bad people,” said Wright.
Wife: Empty safe held $100K or more.
The Baca brothers had been working toward their dream of filing paperwork to open a cannabis dispensary in the Colorado town of Trinidad, on the New Mexico border, said Frankie. They would live in Raton, N.M. They’d been saving money, and Frankie said that safe in the garage contained over $100,000 and their key to a new life.
But survivors said the Bacas’ entanglement with an acquaintance of the brothers, whose name Burque Media decided to redact, may be what killed that dream.
“I think it was [redacted],” said Frankie. “I think the motive was money and jealousy. There was money in the safe in the garage.”
“[Redacted] had hatred toward them, jealousy,” said Wright. “He always tried to be a businessman, always tried to start up his own things, and he couldn’t.… In the days prior, you watched him spiral and start posting some really, really weird stuff.”
Wright said Carlos often loaned [redacted] money. “I know Carlos was tired of loaning him money,” he said. “Carlos was the kind of person who would feel so bad that, if he had the available funds, he would help you.”
There’s also a possible romantic motive: The brothers were both sleeping with [redacted]’s longtime girlfriend, admits Frankie.
“He was devastated about his girlfriend.”
“If you read the posts on [redacted]’s Facebook page leading up to the murders, he was devastated about his girlfriend—‘I have to let her go,’ blah blah blah.”
Wright said he can place [redacted] in the grow house that day because the brothers’ father told him he’d heard Carlos greet [redacted] over the phone. [Redacted] had been sought by APD in connection with the murders, and the Bacas’ sister Yvonne said investigators had made contact with him twice.
“The first time they found him was up north, and he had all his hair shaved off,” she said.
But no suspects have been named, no charges filed, and neither APD nor the DEA have returned calls to Burque Media for comment.
The Baca brothers’ loved ones are still awaiting justice. And they’re desperate to clear their names and put the drug-trafficking rumors to rest.
“I think it’s just an easy way for them to wash their hands and be done with it,” said Wright. “If you say they were killed by a cartel, case closed. How are you going to prove it? You can’t just call Pablo Escobar or whoever and say, ‘Hey, we want to talk to a couple of your hitmen.’ It’s case closed at that point, and I think that’s what they’re trying to do.”
Carlos Baca’s wife, who was pregnant at the time of the murders, remained angry at investigators and the media as she held out hope for a break in the case.
“There is no way this is linked to a Mexican cartel in any way, shape or form,” said Frankie. “I feel like for them to even imply that is to sweep it under the rug.”