Updated Friday (Sept. 24) at 11:15 a.m.:
Kody Martinez was ordered by Judge Emilio Chavez to stay in jail on a no-bond hold Thursday afternoon (Sept. 23) after he was arrested on charges relating to the death of Uvaldo Lopez.
Chavez said because of similar previous charges, several bench warrants for failure to appear, and the lack of a permanent residence, Martinez would have to stay in jail until he could prove that he had a place to stay.
Kody Martinez, 28, of Ojo Sarco has been arrested on suspicion of hitting and killing Taos resident Uvaldo Lopez with a vehicle last month and then leaving the scene of the accident.
Lopez was reported missing on Aug. 25 after he did not come home after an argument with his wife, according to court documents. Lopez’s wife told authorities that she had left to stay with her mother until Lopez could “sober up.” Lopez was a firefighter for the U.S. National Forest Service and a former well loved employee at Taos Ski Valley.
On Sept. 7, Lopez’s body was found by a local resident off Forest Road 207 near El Valle. When officers showed up to investigate, they found Lopez’s body decomposing, at which point the Office of the Medical Investigator was called to the scene.
During the officers’ investigation, they noticed “several small trees that appeared to have been run over and other indications that a vehicle had driven through the area, spun out a couple of times and tried to turn around in several places,” according to the arrest warrant for Martinez.
Officers began asking more questions after OMI investigators could not find any “unnatural defects on the body,” and no wounds to indicate Lopez had been shot, stabbed or beaten.
After speaking with Lopez’s wife, they learned that he had gone out drinking in the mountains with some friends. Shortly after that, Lopez’s white Toyota Tacoma was reportedly found in a driveway off Rio Chiquito Road. A search warrant executed on the car failed to find any traces of blood, bodily fluids, or chemical cleaners.
A search and rescue operation was conducted in the area where Lopez’s truck was found, but no physical evidence was recovered. Officers learned from a neighbor that two men were seen exiting Lopez’s vehicle after it was parked in the private driveway, and one of the men was identified as Lawrence “Larry” Rael.
After speaking with Rael, officers learned that Lopez’s death “might have been accidental,” according to court documents, suggesting that Lopez may have been run over (a theory the investigators were already considering).
As they spoke more with Rael, he began to give more details, but said he couldn’t quite recall everything due to the fact he had blacked out that night.
Rael said that Lopez, himself and another man, identified as “Kody,” had headed up into the mountains to drink (a bottle of whiskey was found near Lopez’s body). After that, Rael said the night was a blur.
Investigators followed another lead, talking to a man who said he had seen Lopez, Rael and Kody (identified as Kody Martinez) traveling up Forest Road 207 to drink in Lopez’s Tacoma.
After a second conversation with Rael, more details began to emerge. He told investigators that he remembered the truck getting stuck just after dark. He said he remembered Lopez exited the truck and asked Kody Martinez to drive, so that they could try to push the truck. As they were trying to rock the truck back and forth to get it free, Rael said he saw the truck move forward and said Lopez was run over by the front right tire.
At this point, Rael checked Lopez for a pulse and found none. The two men passed out in the truck for the night before driving it back into the Peñasco area the next morning, at which point they went their separate ways.
Investigators next spoke to Martinez, who said he did not remember anything about the incident, and that he had only hung out with Lopez twice, and both times gotten a ride home from him. When officers began to question him, Martinez said he did not recall another person (Rael), but later said he didn’t know him. Later in the line of questioning, Martinez used the name “Larry.”
At first, Martinez “vehemently denied” traveling into the mountains with Lopez and Rael, but then later said he went unwillingly. He said he didn’t remember anything until waking up the next day in his own bed.
Based on the information gathered, officers filed for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Martinez, who was arrested on Sept. 17.
The 28-year-old was taken into custody and charged with knowingly leaving the scene of an accident that caused great bodily harm or death (a third degree felony); knowingly failing to give information or render aid (a third degree felony); and two charges of tampering with evidence (both fourth degree felonies).
Martinez has a prior charge of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident that caused great bodily harm or death in 2013; he pleaded guilty to the charge in 2015. He was also charged with battery on a peace officer in 2015 but the case was dismissed without prejudice. In 2020, he was charged with residential burglary and battery of a household member, but the case was settled without a hearing or trial.
Rael had not been charged in connection to Lopez’s death as of press time Wednesday (Sept. 22).
The state has filed a motion for a no bond hold for Martinez, who will appear before Judge Emilio Chavez on Thursday (Sept. 23) at 4 p.m.
This is a developing story.