Suit: New Mexico deputies didn't protect slain man

AP News
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Posted: Nov 14, 2014 3:13 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The family of a New Mexico man who was abducted from his home and beaten to death in attack that also left another man dead has sued the local sheriff's office, alleging that deputies failed to protect their relative.

Leon Sanchez's family filed a federal lawsuit last week against Lea County Sheriff's Department and accused the agency of not properly investigating.

A security company notified authorities in November 2011 about an alarm at Sanchez's home in the eastern city of Lovington, according to the lawsuit. A deputy arrived to an empty house and saw unfinished meals but cleared the call, court documents said.

Sanchez, 49, who owned a hair salon, and Frank McClain, 44, were later found dead in a pasture about 4 miles east of Lovington, authorities said. The two men were kidnapped, savagely beaten and stabbed, deputies said.

Michael Newell, the family's lawyer, said that if the deputy had issued an abduction alert, Sanchez could have been saved.

"They (the family) feel that the sheriff's department could have done a lot more," Newell said.

For instance, Sanchez lived five minutes away from the sheriff's department, but it took a deputy 21 minutes to get there, the attorney said.

Lea County Manager Mike Gallagher and Sheriff Mark Hargrove didn't immediately return calls or emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Multiple arrests were made in the attack, but only one suspect was convicted.

Francisco Muñoz, 22, was sentenced earlier this year to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and second-degree murder. He is the only known suspect of four men believed to have been involved in the murders, authorities said.

Two other men were charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping but those counts were later dropped by prosecutors.

One of them sued the Sheriff's Department for false imprisonment and defamation of character, and the sides settled out of court.

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Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras .