Primary witness in homicide case faces new indictment »Albuquerque Journal

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When Arthur Lovato shows up outside in the car with a .44 caliber revolver and a dead woman, Kevin Rangel says he agreed to destroy the murder weapon.

Instead, after Lovato left his house that morning on September 21, 2018, Rangel hid the gun to use as “insurance,” he later told authorities. A month later, Rangel handed the gun over to the New Mexico State Police. He then became the main witness for the Lovato murder in Valencia County.

With a decade-long violent criminal history, Rangel has faced his own pending charges of aiding and abetting Lovato following the fatal 2018 shooting. He was also charged in March 2020 with “viciously beating” his child’s mother.

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But after agreeing to testify against his friend, Rangel was released from prison by a judge in Los Lunas last October and roamed the streets of Albuquerque on a GPS monitor, court records show.

His passport to leave the prison has just expired.

Kevin Rangel

Rangel, 42, is being held in federal custody on the orders of a US judge following his arrest on June 7th by an FBI-led multi-agency task force. During the raid, agents seized six weapons, including a machine gun, 15,000 fentanyl pills, 12.5 pounds of heroin, 2.5 pounds of meth, 60 pounds of marijuana, $ 15,000 in cash and a ballistic vest, court records say.

While waiting to testify in the murder trial, Rangel led something of a double life, as the files of the federal and state courts show.

As a “concerned citizen” he appeared in preliminary negotiations with defense lawyers and prosecutors. During the same period, he reportedly traded fentanyl pills, heroin and up to 100 pounds of methamphetamine per week.

For the past few weeks, Rangel has been extremely paranoid, constantly armed, and reportedly recruited a group of gang members to kidnap and murder someone he claimed stole $ 50,000 and 18,000 fentanyl pills, according to the federal criminal complaint.

Right now, Rangel is facing a single federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm – an offense that could keep him in jail for at least 15 years.

And Rangel is accused of having guns? He kept the alleged murder weapon .44 caliber as “insurance”.

25 previous arrests

Rangel’s criminal record comes from his youth. It includes at least nine felony convictions and 25 previous arrests. With convictions including drug trafficking, armed robbery and attempted murder, Rangels has sometimes been referred to as “Wacko”.

But his lawyer, Robert Aragon, described his client on State Court files as a “concerned citizen” and a witness “to the terrible crime committed by Arthur Lovato”.

Rita Jaramillo

Lovato’s ex-girlfriend, Rita Jaramillo, 49, from Los Lunas, was found missing after being last seen by her daughter on September 20, 2018, according to a report by Dateline NBC. On September 23 of the same year, her trailer was set on fire.

Law enforcement agencies spent months looking for her body, which Lovato is now supposed to hide or destroy. Lovato has pleaded not guilty on any count.

Meanwhile, state police investigators interviewed Rangel, who was on state probation at the time of her disappearance.

Court records say Rangel alleged that Lovato, who was a friend, showed up at a house in Albuquerque where Rangel lived. Lovato was driving Jaramillo’s car, and Rangel claimed he could see the body of a partially covered woman in the seat.

Rangel claims Lovato confessed to shooting her in the mouth and killing her, according to a federal criminal report.

Rangel told NMSP agents that Lovato had told him to destroy the gun, but Rangel said he was saving it for insurance “in case something ever comes back on him”.

Arthur Lovato

He said he was out of town when Lovato burned Rita’s trailer, but Lovato told him he placed tires in the apartment and set them on fire, which set the entire trailer on fire.

Rangel took state police to a shed in a friend’s house in Albuquerque, where agents found a .44 caliber revolver hidden in a toolbox.

More than six months later, 61-year-old Lovato was charged with first-degree murder related to Jaramillo’s disappearance and manipulation of evidence.

Rangel was only charged after allegedly beating up his child’s mother in March 2020. He was charged with household member heavy battery, child molestation, and theft.

Two months later, the 13th District Attorney’s Office in Valencia County started a separate case against Rangel, accusing him of manipulating evidence by allegedly hiding cell phone records, cartridge cases, a gun and providing assistance to Lovato after the killing.

At the time, the Valencian County Prosecutor’s office requested that Rangel be detained in prison and in a motion dated May 2020 that “no release condition imposed on the defendant will adequately protect the safety of any other person or community”.

Assistant District Attorney Natalie Campbell, who no longer works for the office, wrote in her detention request that Rangel has a criminal record in addition to the two pending crime charges that began as a teenager at the age of 14. Motion found he failed adhered to the prudential rules and tried to convince the victim not to testify against him in the case of grievous bodily harm.

Los Lunas District Judge James Lawrence Sanchez ordered Rangel to be held in June and resumed the detention hearing in the fall of 2020.

Meanwhile, Rangel was transported from the Metropolitan Detention Center’s court records to meet with state police and prosecutors at the Valencia County Prosecutor’s office.

His detention hearing was scheduled for October 13th, but no hearing is held in the court records.

There is an order dated October 19, in which Judge Sanchez denied the Valencia County Prosecutor’s request for detention. The judge cited the results of a pre-trial investigation and Rangel’s financial resources. He put Rangel on “house arrest” but allowed him to meet with his lawyer. Travel was allowed “for work outside the city”.

Officials from the Valencia County Public Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to the Journal’s questions about the case last week.

Earlier this year, Michael Rosenfield, attorney for murder suspect Lovatos, asked if Rangel had gotten a deal as a testimony.

In a motion to compel him to answer defense questions, Rosenfield said the judge apparently denied the state’s request for Rangel’s detention “without holding a hearing and apparently with the consent of the state because the district attorney approved the order” .

A partial copy of an interview between the defense and Rangel was attached to the application.

“Is there an agreement between you and the state of New Mexico that should be released in October 2020 regarding the increased battery charging in Valencia county because it has agreed to work with the state on the Lovato case?” asked Rosenfeld.

Rangel replied no.

“So your collaboration with the state on this case against Lovato had nothing to do with the fact that you were released in October 2020,” said Rosenfield.

Rangel replied, “That’s what I’m saying … (inaudible) dropped the ball.”

Rangel’s attorney, Robert Aragon, didn’t return a request from the Journal last week.

But in court records, he stated, “As a witness and concerned citizen, Kevin Lee Rangel has voluntarily consented to testify on behalf of the state against Arthur Lovato for no government consideration.”

Armed with a gun

Rangel was still out of custody on June 7 when interagency task force agents and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office arrested him on federal firearms charges after receiving a search warrant for two Albuquerque homes.

“In the past few weeks, members of the FBI task force and the BCSO have been investigating Rangel for his propensity for violent crime in connection with firearms, his commitment to drug trafficking and his association with gangs in the region,” a federal criminal complaint read.

In recent weeks, FBI and Sheriff’s Department sources reported that Rangel was armed with a pistol and AR-15, sold drugs, was extremely paranoid, and “tried to get revenge on a person who gave him $ 50,000 and 18,000 fentanyl pills had robbed. “Alleges the lawsuit.

In addition, a federal affidavit states that Rangel allegedly recruited a group of gang members, including members of the Aryan Brotherhood and an outlaw motorcycle gang, to aid him in a plot to kidnap and murder the person responsible for the robbery was.

Rangel is also believed to have sold fentanyl pills to a confidential informant. After driving away, he drove more than 100 miles per hour on the freeway and snaked dangerously in traffic, the federal affidavit said.

The US Attorney’s Office in New Mexico cited Rangel’s criminal history and alleged involvement with Lovato on June 9 to seek his detention on firearms charges.

“There is no question that he is simply too dangerous to be released under all conditions,” said the application for detention.

Rangel was “ordered to destroy a firearm that was used as a murder weapon,” the motion said. “He didn’t destroy it and instead hid it in a toolbox to one day use it as ‘insurance’. The ‘insurance’ scenario that the defendant has envisioned and planned is likely to be different from the scenario he is faced with today, which appears before this court as a felon convicted of nine convictions on charges of possession of a firearm that owns him sentenced to a mandatory minimum duration of 15 years.

The motion states that Rangel admitted, “According to Miranda, he currently sells 100 pounds of methamphetamine a week in Albuquerque and owes him $ 1 million in drug debt.”

“He stated that he had a gun with him on all of his drug deals because he was robbed three times in the past six months and he lost $ 100,000 in cash in those robberies. He routinely drove around in an AR-15. “

How the federal trial against Rangel will affect the murder charge is not clear.

No trial date was set in the murder case. Rangel’s case of grievous bodily harm for allegedly beating a household member is pending before the state court in Valencia county. But on June 7, charges of tampering with evidence against Rangel were dismissed after Valencia County Prosecutors said the case would be pursued by another agency.

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