Two Valencia County residents have been arrested after using the credit card of a missing Belen Marine.
Francisco Gomez, 37, of Los Lunas, and Jeannine Willard, 45, of Adelino, are in being held at the Valencia County Detention Center on no-bond holds.
The couple used a credit card belonging to Matthew Gurule, 32, on Saturday, July 27, at various stores in Belen. Gurule was last heard from just after midnight that same day.
Family members say Gurule called his mother, Sandra Miller, who lives in Texas, from the Isleta Casino saying he was being asked to leave the property. That was the last contact he had with family or friends.
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.
According to the criminal complaint, Gomez found the credit card on the side of Manzano Expressway, east of Belen. At about 12:30 p.m. on July 27, Gurule’s Honda Accord was found on fire off of the expressway. No one was found in the car.
Video surveillance at Dollar General in Belen showed Gomez purchasing items, then giving the card belonging to Gurle to Willard, which she also used.
The couple spent between $250 and $500 at McDonald’s, Trend One, Little Caesars and Dollar General, all in Belen.
Both are charged with fraudulent transfer or receipt of a credit card and fraudulent use of a credit card.
Gomez is additionally charged with tampering with evidence, and Willard with possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamines, and bringing contraband into places of imprisonment.
Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said Gomez and Willard are considered persons of interest at this time in the case.
“They were using a missing person’s debit card and were arrested on unrelated charges. They are not suspects at this time,” Rodriguez said. “This is still a missing person investigation, and the goal of the police department is to fine Mr. Gurule alive and well.
“We are continuing to follow leads, and as we receive information and tips, we follow up to confirm the validity. We are asking the community for any information about Mr. Gurule’s last known whereabouts or associations he might have had.”
Rodriguez said Belen PD participated in a search of the river in the Belen and Rio Communities area on Monday with the assistance of New Mexico Parks personnel.
“We appreciate their assistance as well as that of the media exposure on this case,” the chief said. “Especially when dealing with a missing person, to get the case out there and get information that can possibly solve this case.”
Since his disappearance, family and friends have been searching for Gurule or any sign of him in the area where his car was found. They also searched on and along the Rio Grande on Monday.
“There’s nothing new. We’ve had a ton of people every day volunteer,” said Amanda Bratten, Gurule’s older sister. “We even had a bunch of duck hunters offer their boats to go up and down the river.”
Bratten had gotten word that Gurule’s card had been used at the Little Caesars in Belen and employees were able to tell her the couple was driving a gray Chevrolet Colorado pickup.
“My uncle and I were driving about a block from the Little Caesars and saw a gray Colorado, so we followed it,” she said.
They called 911 to report the vehicle’s location, and when officers arrived, Gomez and Willard were arrested, she said.
“To my knowledge, they haven’t said anything. Just that they found Matthew’s wallet,” Bratten said.
With no new information about her brother’s whereabouts, Bratten said the search will continue.
“We’re just hoping to get something, somewhere. I have a feeling he’s here in the area,” she said. “We are not stopping at all. We’re getting up at 6 every morning every single day and hitting the pavement.”
The Family Dollar at the Del Rio Plaza Shopping Center on East Reinken Avenue has become a collection point for snacks and water for search volunteers. Bratten said customers can make purchases at the store and leave supplies there for the family to pick up.
“They have been phenomenal,” she said.
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.