ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three teenagers accused of fatally beating two homeless men beyond recognition with cinderblocks, bricks and a metal fence pole may have been terrorizing transients around Albuquerque for months, police said Monday.
Alex Rios, 18, and two boys, ages 16 and 15, are scheduled for arraignment Monday on murder charges in the Friday night slayings. The 15-year-old told police the attack lasted more than an hour, and that the trio took turns picking up cinderblocks over their heads and smashing them into the faces of the men who had been sleeping in a field across from his home, according to a criminal complaint.
A third transient who escaped led police to the boys, whom he said were known for attacking homeless people. The 15-year-old told police the trio had attacked more than 50 people over the last year. And his father told an Albuquerque television station there were rumors his son was violent, but he assumed it was with other kids.
Gilbert Prieto told KOB-TV that he has no idea what prompted the beatings, and that he and his family had once been homeless themselves.
"It's so hard that he could do that to someone where... I mean, like I said, we came from there," said Prieto, the father of the 15- and 16-year-olds accused. "You know what I mean? We're not there now, but that's where we... We got out of there," Prieto said.
According to the criminal complaint, the teens came home from a party and one of them was "very angry" over a breakup with a longtime girlfriend. So they covered their faces with black T-shirts and went out to look for someone to beat up and possibly rob.
The attack was so brutal it stunned even veteran police officers.
"I personally, after reading that complaint, was sick to my stomach because of the nature of the violence and the age of the offenders," police spokesman Simon Drobik said.
Officers responded Saturday around 8 a.m. to a 911 call reporting the two bodies in a field. They found one victim lying on a mattress and another lying on the ground. Jerome Eskeets, a third victim who said he was able to flee, was hospitalized with injuries.
Eskeets told police that he recognized one of the "kids" hitting and kicking him as someone who lived in a house nearby, and police found the trio of suspects there. Prieto said the 15- and 16-year-old were his sons and Rios was a friend who had spent the night.
The complaint says Rios has been charged with two counts each of murder, among other charges. The younger boys will likely be charged with murder as adults, Drobik said. The Associated Press is withholding their names because of their ages.
Rios told investigators he acted as a lookout while the other boys attacked both men with bricks, sticks and a metal fence pole. The younger suspects, however, told police that Rios also took part in the attacks.
Investigators have not yet confirmed the identities of the two victims, although police did find an Arizona driver's license at the home where the boys were. The victims' transient background and the severity of their injuries have made identification difficult, Drobik said.
In one corner of the field on Monday, a mattress, dirty pillows, clothing, broken bottles, and cinderblock were visible.
William Toyama's house backs up to the field. He said the homeless regularly sleep there without bothering anyone.
"Everybody here seems to be pretty shocked. They seem to find it deplorable," he said. "Like I said, most people around here have the same opinion I do. They don't cause any trouble."
Toyama, a 29-year-old cook, said he doesn't know the three teens, but has told them to stop throwing rocks at his dogs.
The department is asking anyone in the homeless community with information about other attacks to get in touch with them. Drobik said those uncomfortable approaching police can contact them through any social service agency.
"Just please come forward," Drobik said.