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Home / Articles / News / Features /  Everyone Knew

Everyone Knew

A family headed toward tragedy—while Santa Fe watched

July 8, 2009, 12:00 am


The record is unclear about the other woman’s identity. It’s also vague about the mystery object. It could’ve been a bottle, a dildo, a gun—anything.

Loretta told police she spent Dec. 31, 2008, at the Park Inn & Suites on Cerrillos Road, getting drunk, high and then raped “with an object” by another female. Marino’s company guards that hotel, a clerk confirms.

Whatever happened that New Year’s Eve may have led Marino to sign divorce papers, again, on Jan. 2.

On Jan. 6, Loretta reported her rape from CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. Marino also called the cops that day: Someone had stolen his white Ford Taurus, which he’d left in the Lowe’s supermarket lot overnight with the keys inside.

By 2009, little that happened to the Leybas could surprise.

April was the last time Reno’s neighbor, Juan Medrano, remembers seeing Reno and his pretty, quiet young girlfriend, Sarah. Medrano never saw or heard them fight. But Medrano, also nicknamed Reno, rarely spoke to the skinny security guard across the street.

“He looks like a good guy, always,” Medrano says.

Others saw more. In the months after Sarah’s pregnancy, according to an article in The Santa Fe New Mexican, a Paseo Del Sol resident saw Reno and Sarah “fighting in a car and when Lovato tried to get out, Leyba pulled her back in by her hair. The neighbor did not report the incident.”

Horwitz, the domestic violence liaison, is disgusted but not surprised. “People are more concerned about robberies and prairie dogs than they are about each other,” she says.

Knowing the Lovatos might have been saved wears on her. “It’s been horrible—beyond horrible,” Horwitz says. The same goes for others in the “DV” field.

“This happening on my shift; I feel responsible somehow,” Esperanza’s Taylor says. “Maybe we should’ve done more outreach in the schools. Maybe there should’ve been more triage for [Reno]. I don’t know what we could’ve done. But we’re going to do something now.”

To Reno’s defense attorney, ACLU-New Mexico President Gary Mitchell, it’s no accident New Mexico ranks among the nation’s worst in treating mental illness. (A 2009 study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness says this state made little progress, despite a bureaucratic overhaul begun in 2005.) Without saying his client committed “any act,” Mitchell suggests Reno might have benefited from some serious psychiatric attention early in life.

“Until the Legislature decides to provide appropriate funds for mental health treatment, whether it be in schools or outside of schools, we’re going to continue to have major problems,” Mitchell says. “Isn’t it worth it to save lives? Why do we have to be so ignorant? And I say ignorant because the Legislature knows and the governor knows, but they don’t want to do it because it’s not something that gets you votes. It is so wrong that the governor and every official in this state ought to walk with their heads down. They’re the ones responsible.”

Morally, Mitchell may have a case. But the law will hold one person responsible for the Lovatos’ deaths, and his name isn’t Bill Richardson.

Reno had revealed a jealous side before. Yet even after learning what happened to Sarah, Reno’s ex doesn’t think she dodged a bullet.

“I don’t think he would have it in him to shoot me,” Amanda Ewers says. “I’m sure a lot of girls would say this: I think we had a different kind of relationship.”

Steve Ewers suspects his daughter might still have feelings for Reno. But even the angry dad has sympathy for the young man now jailed on murder charges: “Wherever he goes, I hope he gets the help he needs,” Ewers says.

Earlier this year, Reno tried to reconnect with Amanda. She blocked his calls—except one night when she was drunk. “Maybe I can just come out there with you and start a new life,” he told her.

“No,” she said.

Alt text here

Corey Pein

The apartment complex where the Lovatos died stands across the street from Capital High School. Their door bears scuff marks.

Amanda remembers a cryptic message Reno left sometime in May, apparently before the shooting.

C’mon, I love you. I just wanted to talk to you. I don’t understand.

You’ll hear about me. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’ll hear about me.

 



Detective Trujillo thinks it happened like this.

It was a Friday night, May 22. Reno—in uniform, with Mace and pistol—was beginning the graveyard shift.

He and Sarah were arguing over the phone again. In her room, Julie Lovato could hear them through the walls.

Minutes after getting off the phone, Sarah went to Julie’s bedroom. Soon the sisters heard Reno barge in. They heard Bennie Sr. yell, “You just don’t walk in here like that!”
Reno refused to leave. Julie followed Sarah into the hall.

“What the hell,” Reno shouted, “What are you going to do about it?”

Julie fled to her brother’s place nearby, hoping he could help. Running down the stairs, she heard Sarah’s voice for the last time: “Please Reno, no.”

Then she heard a shot. Moments later, more shots. People were finally calling 911. Bennie Jr., who once pulled a knife on his family, grabbed a baseball bat and ran to save his father and sister.

Reno was gone. The room smelled of Mace. Bennie Sr. lay dead in the living room, pregnant Sarah lay dead in the kitchen.

“We think the fetus was targeted specifically,” Trujillo says.

She was 17, he was 36 weeks in the womb.  SFR

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