In the Rearview

Looking back: 10, 25, 50 years ago - July 19

Housing crunch, gem dealer slain, town council fires police officer

By Mary Beth Libbey
forum@taosnews.com
Posted 7/18/18

- 10 YEARS AGO - 'Housing crunch: Fewer buyers 'fall in love' with Taos real estate', By Chandra Johnson, July 17, 2008. …

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In the Rearview

Looking back: 10, 25, 50 years ago - July 19

Housing crunch, gem dealer slain, town council fires police officer

Posted

- 10 YEARS AGO - 'Housing crunch: Fewer buyers 'fall in love' with Taos real estate', By Chandra Johnson, July 17, 2008

Reporter Chandra Johnson interviewed Taos Realtor Page Sullivan on the local experience of the national housing crisis, which began in 2008, drove foreclosures and mortgage defaults to record highs and in turn drove housing prices into the basement by 2011.

In additions, gas prices hiked in 2008, which made second homes less attractive, and many people were simply not buying them in Northern New Mexico.

Taos was not as seriously hurt as elsewhere, but the signs of the downturn were definitely apparent, Sullivan reported.

She shared her own statistics over several years with The Taos News. She compared the first six months of 2006, 2007 and 2008 to give a snapshot of the slide in home prices and the number of homes for sale:

2006--603 properties sold at an average price of $293,969 after an average 252 days on the market.2007--381 properties sold at an average price of $356,600 after an average 272 days.2008--262 properties sold at an average of $331,528 after 310 days.But for Sullivan the real shock was how much and how often sellers were dropping their prices in 2008. According to her records, the Taos market had had 443 price drops and that many houses were priced at about 10-20 percent more when they were first listed. As Johnson reports, "Coming from a market that until 2005 has gone nowhere but up, Sullivan said it's hard to deal with. 'Unbelievable,' Sullivan said. 'That's a lot.' "

A check of the most recent 2018 home sales statistics published by The Lora Co. show that the average home price in May was $306,400 and the average time on the market was 167 days. On its website, The Lora Co. writes that "since bottoming out in 2011-2012, the overall number of sales through 2017 gained 105 percent. The market has not yet reached peak levels of 2005-2006, but it is on track to reach that soon, at least for single-family homes."

And the discounting of home prices has slowed. According to the folks at Lora, in the first five months of 2018, the average sales price was dropped by 8.4 percent from the original asking price compared with the 10-20 percent Sullivan reported 10 years ago.

- 25 YEARS AGO - 'Gem dealer slain; river yields body', By Jess Williams and Alisa Duncan, July 22, 1993

A grisly find in the Río Grande topped today's front page.

Reporters Williams and Duncan wrote: "The beaten and bound body of a 44-year-old man with business and social ties to Taos was found by New Mexico State Police and rescue crews Sunday (July 18) in the Río Grande near Velarde."

Lt. Joel Darby told The Taos News that the body apparently had been in the water for more than a week. But despite the body's decomposition and a medical examiner's pending investigation, state police murder investigator Carlos Martínez said the victim was believed to be James Carroll Conklin, a traveling gem and mineral dealer, who had been reported missing by his girlfriend about 10 days before.

The burned out remains of the car he had been driving when last seen, a 1983 Mercedes that he borrowed from a friend in Ruidoso, had also been found 10 days before.

The car was found near the Taos and Río Arriba county line and had been vandalized and set on fire. Investigators also found a blood-soaked blanket and a bloody tennis shoe in the car.

Conklin had been recognizable when in Taos on business since he commonly wore a black hat with a dream-catcher hat band plus an ornate choker and a large belt buckle. Police suspected robbery was the motive for the crime.

Investigator Martínez said Conklin was last seen alive July 7 eating dinner with John and Marcine Hughes at Ogelvie's, a Taos restaurant that occupied the space where The Gorge is now. Martínez was anxious to trace Conklin's movements after that dinner.

- 50 YEARS AGO - 'Council suspends policeman', Staff report, July 18, 1968

File this report under 'Times have sure changed.' Not that police are not being accused of bad behavior. They are.

The weird part of this story is that the town of Taos council is suspending a police officer without pay even though it seems as if the incident involving the police officer should be decided in court, and the alleged attack on a citizen happened while he was off duty.

But, when the complainant went to Peace Justice Filemón Sánchez, he told her to take it up with the mayor and town council.

So, here's what happened at the town council meeting:

A waitress named Maclovia Martínez, who worked at the supper club owned by one of the town councilors, Martin Vargas, came before the council to report an altercation she had with Taos police officer Joe C. Martínez (no relation). The council meeting had been called that Tuesday (July 16) only to hear Maclovia Martínez's complaint.

She said that while at the Taos Inn dining room in the early hours of that same day, she and officer Martínez had what sounds like an argument. Officer Martínez called her names and slapped her hard enough to break her glasses. He was off-duty at the time.

Officer Martínez was present at the council meeting but was not asked to speak after he said he was represented by a lawyer, John W. Ramming. Another officer who was present at the confrontation, Ruben Abeyta, also addressed the council, but he said he had not written up any formal report. It was not clear whether officer Abeyta was on or off-duty at the time of the incident.

In any event, with this rather sketchy version of events, the council suspended officer Martínez without pay until a hearing could be held on the matter. A week later, the newspaper reported the town government extended the suspension to 30 days while Judge Sánchez deliberated on the case.

Apparently, Maclovia Martínez decided to go back to the local judge for a ruling after all. Meanwhile, earlier in the meeting, the council questioned police chief Arthur Leach about other incidents of reported aggressive behavior on the part of other police force members.

In that discussion, at one point, Leach said, he had never been given authority to fire an employee during his years on the force. And, while he could say his staff was doing its job while on duty, he could not "vouch for his staff's off-duty conduct and character."

The council agreed that a citizen's advisory committee should be formed regarding police conduct.

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