A Marine veteran who recently began calling Belen home is missing and his family is asking for the public’s help.
“This isn’t like Matthew,” said Amanda Bratten, older sister of Matthew Gurule.
Bratten said Gurule, 32, called his mother, Sandra Miller, about 12:30 a.m., Saturday July 27, telling her he was being asked to leave the Isleta Casino.
“He said he wasn’t feeling good, throwing up,” Bratten said. “When she talked to him, he wasn’t sloppy drunk or incoherent.”
Gurule was last seen wearing a black T-shirt and brown pants. He has a tattoo of a black swan on his left forearm and one of a badger holding a gun on his right upper arm among others.
Gurule and his siblings grew up in the Belen and Albuquerque area, but moved to Texas when he was in elementary school, Bratten said. He returned to the area a few months ago after inheriting a piece of property in Jarales from his father.
Gurule was living with his cousins on Paseo Arbolado on Belen’s west mesa while he worked on the property.
Bratten said her brother called his mother, who lives in Texas, regularly.
“Even if he was upset with her, he’d call her almost every day,” she said. “When she didn’t hear from him by Sunday, she knew something was off.”
Miller and Gurule’s younger sister began calling family and friends, reaching out to Bratten on Monday. After checking hospitals, jails, even the office of the medical investigator and finding nothing, the family filed a missing persons report with the Belen Police Department on Monday, July 29.
Two short hours later, they heard his car had been found. It was badly burned and left quite a way southeast off of Manzano Expressway, east of the Chamesa subdivision.
Valencia County Fire Chief Brian Culp said the firefighters were called out about 12:30 p.m., Saturday, July 27. The car was a 2006 or 2007 Honda Accord according to Bratten,
Bratten felt there was a delay in connecting Gurule to the car because he was reported missing in Belen, while the car was found in the unincorporated county.
“All our heads were just spinning,” she said. “At first the police said there was not enough foul play to investigate. They said we didn’t know the car was set on fire; they said there was nothing to indicate they needed to pursue it.
“So we hit the ground hard on social media. This is not Matthew. We needed to make a storm about it so they would do their job.”
Belen Detective Sgt. Adam Keck said there is an ongoing investigation into Gurule’s whereabouts. On Thursday, Aug. 1, the Belen PD released images taken from surveillance cameras inside the Love’s Travel Center in Belen showing a man and woman considered persons on interest.
Today, Friday, Aug. 2, Keck said the man and woman are not relevant to the case. Gurule’s debit card was used at the Love’s prior to him being reported missing. When the transactions were reviewed for those specific dates, the partial card numbers came back as a match.
“The store is only given a certain portion of the number, not the whole number,” Keck said. “Those parts matched but we have determined these people aren’t involved.”
Bratten said Gurule left the house on the West Mesa at about 9:30 p.m., Friday, July 26, telling the people he was staying with he was going to buy food for his dog, Matilda.
“Somehow, he ends up at the casino. We don’t know how or why. We don’t know if he stopped somewhere and got the food,” she said.
Gurule is a Marine veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Bratten said, and suffers from PTSD.
“He takes medications regularly for it and his doctors are concerned,” she said.
Family and friends are going out to the area where Gurule’s car was found at 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 3, to look for him. They will be searching south of Manzano Expressway near Calle de Chamisa Loop. For more information, call 357-5215.
“Some of his Marine buddies are coming to help search. They take care of each other,” Bratten said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
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.