Updated Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.
A Taos County Commissioner published information to Facebook Saturday night (Aug. 31) naming an "alleged person of interest" in the death of Taos coffee shop owner Patrick Larkin, but law enforcement officials say the post is one of many on social media circulating unverified rumors in an ongoing investigation.
In the public post, District V Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell provided the name and mugshot of a Taos County man who was recently arrested on other charges. She claimed he is the person of interest New Mexico State Police had previously said investigators were "looking at," but have never named. Referring to what she described as "word on the street," O'Donnell then went on to describe one of several theories about how Larkin might have been killed.
O'Donnell removed the post Sunday afternoon.
Unverified information has the potential to compromise criminal investigations. For that reason, Taos News will not republish the details of O'Donnell's post unless they are verified by a credible source.
While the information O'Donnell provided may prove accurate as the investigation unfolds, Eighth Judicial District Attorney Marcus Montoya, New Mexico State Police Lt. Edwardo Martinez and the lead criminal investigator on the case said the man named in the commissioner's post had not been linked to Larkin's homicide as of Sunday (Sept. 1).
"No one as of right now has been definitively ruled out as we want to maintain all possible avenues of resolution," Montoya said, adding that he and other law enforcement officials did not know where the commissioner's information had come from.
Montoya said investigators are processing forensic evidence and phone records gathered from more than one individual involved in the case.
Since O'Donnell's post circulated on social media, Montoya said his office had received multiple phone calls from callers asking whether the information in the post came from an official source. He has repeated that it did not.
As of Sunday evening, the case remains open and active.
Information about Larkin's death can be submitted to New Mexico State Police at (575) 758-8878.
Editor's note: Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell sent this response Monday (Sept. 2):
Being out of town on Sunday, I was unable to respond to your voice message until this morning. You are correct that I did not follow protocol in confirming information about the ongoing investigation. Under pressure from a constituent who wanted more information than what was being reported on, I acted in haste
I apologize to law enforcement, to the community, and to your readers for not following procedure.
I will continue to pray that swift justice is brought to pass, knowing that anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law or jury.
My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this tragic loss. Those who care about the welfare of the community have been traumatized by this homicide, including myself.
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