A former Los Lunas resident and her husband were killed Wednesday afternoon when the Jeep Cherokee they were riding in rolled on Interstate 40 near Laguna Pueblo.
Maryalice Valencia, 43, her husband, Adolfo, 42, and her 18-year-old son, Gerald Padilla, were driving home to Santa Rosa from her father’s funeral in Phoenix when their right-rear tire blew out near mile marker 120.
“The driver (Adolfo) lost control, causing the Jeep to roll several times,” said State Police Lt. Robert Shilling. “The victims were thrown out of the vehicle and were pronounced dead on scene. They both were not wearing their seatbelts.”
Padilla, who was in the back seat, was wearing his seatbelt and survived with minor injuries.
Maryalice Valencia graduated from Los Lunas High School in 1976 and had lived in Valencia County until 1986. She had worked for the Department of Corrections in Los Lunas in the women’s unit at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility until the unit was moved to Grants.
“When the women’s unit moved to Grants, so did my sister,” said Ruth Rivera, Maryalice’s younger sister. “They (Maryalice and Adolfo) had met in Grants, and they got married.”
After leaving her job at the prison a few years later, Valencia worked as a dispatcher for several years at the Grants Police Department. The couple, who met and married in Grants, moved to Santa Rosa three years ago when Adolfo got a job at the privately-run prison.
“We were in separate cars, on our way home from our father’s funeral, when the accident happened,” Rivera said. “They had stopped in Grants on the way home, and we went on.”
Rivera said she learned of her sister’s and brother-in-law’s death later that night when a family member called.
“It’s been very hard,” Rivera said. “First, losing my father, and now this. It’s been very hard on my mother, too. She’s still in Phoenix and is on her way home now.”
Maryalice Valencia’s mother, Aracelia “Sally” Rivera, lives in Rio Communities.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.