MONTEREY PARK — A ray of sunshine, with a smile of pure innocence is how he’s described. Joseph Hobbs, 11, was a boy with a passion for rocks and his Xbox.
That light and passion was abruptly taken away Saturday afternoon when Hobbs, of Los Chavez, was shot and killed while visiting a home in Monterey Park.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Saturday, March 6, Valencia County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of a shooting in the 30 block of Carmel Road.
When they arrived, deputies found Joseph dead in the front yard, having suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the neck.
Three suspects have been arrested and charged in connection with the shooting — Alexandria Tabora, 40; her son, Santos Mateo Garcia, 21; and Erik Carrillo-Garcia, 24, no relation.
The three Monterey Park residents are charged with felony murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and aggravated assault.
As his family mourns, Joseph’s teachers and principal at Dennis Chavez Elementary remember a boy they call unique.
“Joseph was amazing, unique and easy to love,” said Sandra Goldberg, his fourth-grade teacher last year. “He was also very thoughtful and kind. He loved to dance and loved studying science. He was the type of student who was fun to talk to, and a student who will have a permanent place in my heart.”
When he was in second grade, he was in Carolyn Serafin-Abeyta’s class at DCE. She remembers giving Joseph a book about Greek myths.
“He was happy as a clam. He knew many of the Greek gods. Seriously, what second-grader knows about Greek mythology?” Serafin-Abeyta recalled. “He was unique and worldly almost, although I’m almost certain he never traveled much outside Valencia County. He was sweet and kind and never hurtful.”
Alicia Blaakman-Abney, principal at Dennis Chavez, said Joseph loved his family, his teachers, his friends, remembering a time he wrote he would “care for them, thank them and never break their heart.”
She described him as someone who was inclusive of everyone.
“He had such a special aura around him that you knew you were safe and that he’d be kind to you,” Blaakman-Abney said. “A few students on campus labeled Joseph as their first friend at DCE because that’s who he was. He also took good care of his little brother.”
A little boy who’s favorite holiday was Halloween and never missed a chance to dress up, Joseph wasn’t afraid to sing and dance for the simple joy of it, the principal said.
Wanting to be a gemologist, Joseph wrote an essay trying to persuade Blaakman-Abney to add another recess so he could spend time outside, hunting for rocks and bugs.
“Many of his peers would follow him around the playground and hunt for treasures,” she said. “They would ask Joseph about the rocks they would find, and he would share his wisdom.
“Even though he only came to DCE in the second grade, he has left 11 years of smiles, stories and sweetness behind. He will be greatly missed.”
In a post on the Belen Consolidated Schools website, Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez expressed profound sadness about Joseph’s death.
“The BCS community mourns the death of Joseph, and our condolences and prayers go out to the family, friends of Joseph and the DCE family,” Sanchez wrote.
During this time of grieving, Sanchez said the district will offer counseling and support services to all students and staff.
“If parents feel their student needs to speak to a counselor or other adult, please do not hesitate to call the school and let them know,” he said.
According to the criminal complaint, on the morning of Saturday, March 6, the three suspects, along with another boy, went to the house on Carmel Drive.
The boy knocked on the door and told the man living there Tabora wanted to talk to him. Later that day, the man saw the same car driving slowly in front of his property then stop at his gate.
According to the criminal complaint, the man told investigators Tabora was driving, while Carrillo-Garcia was in the front passenger seat and Garcia was sitting behind him.
When he approached the car and looked inside, Garcia said, “What are you looking at, you son of a bitch?”
The man told detectives he walked away and that’s when he heard gun shots and heard bullets go by his head.
He told deputies he knew Garcia and Carrillo-Garcia were shooting but did not explain how he knew that, the criminal complaint says.
“… when the shooting stopped, he noticed a child on the ground with his mother (Reva Kathleen Armijo) holding him,” the complaint says.
The man called 911. The suspects fled the area before officers arrived.
Armijo and Joseph’s younger brother were both at the Monterey Park home at the time of the shooting but were uninjured.
Arrest warrants for Tabora, Garcia and Carrillo-Garcia were issued, and Tabora was taken into custody on Sunday, March, 7.
Officers with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police and U.S. Marshals located Carillo-Garcia and Garcia on Monday, March 8, in the Las Maravillas subdivision on the county’s east side.
The two were taken into custody without incident and booked into the Valencia County Detention Center. A search warrant was executed at the home, where they were found and several firearms were recovered.
Rowland said the $15,000 reward offered by the U.S. Marshals Service for information leading to the arrest of the suspects will not be given to any one individual. The lieutenant said the suspects were found through law enforcement methods.
“The family, community, school officials, as well as the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office have been impacted by the death of Joseph Hobbs,” said Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil in a written statement. “Our community suffers greatly when a senseless act of violence takes the life of a young boy who was not afforded a chance at life. An event such as this will have long term affect(s) for all those involved and we pray for those affected by it.”
There will be a candlelight vigil for Joseph at 6 p.m., Friday, March 12, at Dennis Chavez Elementary, 19670 N.M. 314. The community is welcome to attend and everyone is asked to bring a rock to donate to the rock garden the students are creating in his honor.
Blaakman-Abney said people are welcome to put signs and balloons on the fence around the school.
A GoFundMe fundraiser — “Help with funeral expenses for Joseph Ray Hobbs” — has been set up. As of Tuesday, March 9, donations exceeded the goal of $5,000.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.