Sunday, May 29, 2016

On mesa west of Taos, a grisly story of murder, but still no body

The state police agents steered their vehicle through a maze of unmarked roads and thick sagebrush in a rugged area west of Taos known as Two Peaks. Dotted by off-the-grid homes, the area was an enclave of hippies and survivalists and others drawn to the desolation and freedom of the high-country desert. Among them was Naomi Chaney, a former beauty queen and Marine Corps veteran, who had called the area home for at least a half-dozen years. Until, that is, she suddenly disappeared late one January night. Now, in the late afternoon of May 4, the agents went down one wrong dirt road after another looking for a downed metal post. Guiding them, in the backseat, was Albert Gene Hunsaker III, a more recent arrival to this isolated area atop a sprawling mesa. Just hours earlier, according to court records, Hunsaker, who is known as Alex, had made a startling confession. In eerie detail, he described how he had stood by and even helped as another man wrapped a winch cable from his Jeep bumper around Chaney’s neck and then dragged her in reverse through the sagebrush. As they drove away, leaving Chaney’s body behind, Hunsaker told the agents, they knocked down a metal post. He drew a map for the agents and together, they drove across the mesa, attempting to retrace where he, the other man and Chaney had gone that night months earlier. The agents finally found the post. By then, though, it was too dark to search for the body. Weeks later, Chaney’s body is still missing. But a Taos grand jury indicted Hunsaker on Thursday in connection with the murder. The other man, Clayton Jones, a drifter whom Hunsaker told agents did the killing, has been implicated but not charged in the case. Jones, 40, has been charged in California in the April 29 murder of another woman from the Two Peaks area, Shalon Gheen, 39, who had been an acquaintance of Chaney, 36. The stories the two men have told police, according to court records, depict a saga of extreme violence starting in Taos County and ending in Southern California. The murders have rattled this Northern New Mexico community known for its free-spirited independence but marred by violence...more

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