Special Report A Grandfathers Plea for Justice: the Possible Murder of Donovan Contreras


Donovan Marquis Contreras, age 24, passed away on July 12, 2019. He was born on March 16, 1995 to Jessica (Contreras) Smith and Corey Smith in Alamogordo, New Mexico. After graduating from Academy Del Sol High School in 2013, Donovan moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he completed a certification as a security officer. His passions included playing basketball, listening to a variety of music and hanging out with family and friends. Donovan’s loyalty was indescribable and he had a smile that no one will ever forget. He loved to make people laugh and took pride in putting a smile on someone’s face. He had a positive impact on many, especially those closest to him.

Donovan is survived by his son, Angelo Aiden Contreras and his brother, Davion Rey Smith, whom are both his pride and joy, along with his cousins, Sergio Perez, who was more like his brother, and Dominic Perez whom he had a special place for in his heart.

Donovan is also survived by his parents, Corey and Jessica Smith, and additional siblings Deshaun and Damarcus Smith; his maternal grandparents, Rudy and Rita Contreras, both whom he had a very close and special bond with; his paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Smith and Evelina Smith, whom he also loved very much; his aunts, Monica Contreras, whose advice he often leaned on, and Nicole Smith; his uncle, Jerry Smith Jr.; and several beloved other aunts, uncles, cousins, and many, many friends, all whom he loved dearly.

The surviving family of Donovan is seeking justice for his death of which they believe was a murder. The family is pleading for the justice system to open its doors to conducting an independent investigation into Donovan’s death. 

AlamogordoTownNews.org and KALHRadio.org was approached last year by Rudy Contreras the grandfather of the deceased, Donovan Contreras to review the case. The Grandfather, Rudy, is a passionate advocate attempting to get the city, county, state or whoever will take on the challenge of conducting an honest and unbiased investigation into the death of his grandson. He has challenged to DA and local leaders to step forward and bring answers and closure around the death of his grandson. With every door he turns he is turned away. 

He admits his grandson hung around some unsavory characters, and he was naive seeking the best in people

However, the grandfather believes that there is a web of coverup, protecting police informants, possibly the former sheriff’s children, and that if his son were white and from an upper middle class neighborhood of Alamogordo, or was the son or daughter of the mayor or the County Commission Chairwoman, the police would have taken an entirely different approach and solved the case, investigating it as a murder. 

Out of desperation and not being heard by local officials and the DA’s office Rudy, approached 2nd Life Media Alamogordo Town News; hoping someone of authority will read his plight and step in for the little guys that is not of power nor influence.

Alamogordo Town News and KALHRadio.org has held the story in order to read the court documents around the case, to verify the stories being told and to ensure we have the facts to share. The grandfather, Rudy is convinced a coverup has occurred, a police informant is being protected, that Dominique De La O is involved in the death of his grandson that was originally ruled a suicide, then after extensive pressure from the family was modified to an unsolved death.

There have been multiple murders, several initially ruled a suicide around those associated with Donovan and his case. The family believes that witnesses to Donovan’s murder or those close to the case are being eliminated via a multi-state conspiracy with a cover up with roots seated in Otero County as the center of the web.

The story involves cocaine distribution, police informants and multiple murders in hotels, several initially ruled suicide, “which seems to be the go-to in deaths of people of color in Otero County.”

Other deaths in the web of conspiracy around the Donovan Contreras include; Thomas Bruno. Bruno was a potential police informant with ties to Donovan and Dominic De La O per sources close to the investigation. Bruno was allegedly in the hotel room where Donovan was found dead.  Thomas died under similar suspicious circumstances as Donovan in a hotel room in El Paso Texas. Law enforcement at first classified it as a suicide, but then amended the finding to foul play, after an autopsy showed the level of Fentanyl in his system. The person that allegedly found him dead, Carlee Edwards was arrested in Alamogordo in December of 2020 for possession of 200 Fentanyl pills. 

Another individual allegedly associated with the Donovan incident was the murder of young man named Zachery McClendon. He was also shot at a hotel, the Economy Inn on White Sands Blvd on in September of 2020. Investigators were allegedly looking at the son of the former Sheriff House, as a possible suspect in that murder but no charges have been filed to date. The McClendon family also seeks answers and is upset there was no thorough investigation and little mention of Zack’s death by the press. 

There is suspicion by the Contreras family of involvement in the potential coverup of Donovan’s death with ties to House but nothing has been proven for prosecution.  

Individuals have told Donovan’s grandfather Rudy, that “Zack was killed because he knew  to much about Donovan’s death. Similar to Donovan’s death 2 individuals walked into to police station and claimed that he had committed suicide. Zach was shot in the neck and stomach. “ His aunt Ms. Harris is convinced of a cover-up by local law enforcement. Cameron House, allegedly also a suspect in the death of Zack, was also reported to have been present at the time of Donovan’s death per Donovan’s grandfather. 

Donovan’s best friend from Phoenix of which he was in constant communications with and for which the two had no secrets was also found murdered one year after Donovan’s death. On August 9th, 2020 Tony Saucedo was found dead in a canal in Tempe Arizona. At first the family was told it was a suicide but then 2 days later that was retracted and ruled a murder as he was shot in the head twice.

An Otero County Law Enforcement officer that asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation said, he believes “all of the deaths are interconnected to the Donovan incident and I believe Donovan was murdered and it has been covered up.

The family brought a lawsuit against the city of Alamogordo, but it was dismissed on the grounds the statute of limitations had passed. The grandfather and the family are convinced the DA's office, and others drug investigations on and led the family on knowing full well that they were running the clock down on any potential lawsuits and deep investigations.

Rudy, is convinced his grandson was murdered by Dominique De Lela O and that the death of officer Fergurson is related and could have been avoided. The grandfather, Rudy Contreras is convinced that the former police chief gave him a run around, played pass the buck with the DA’s office, the DA's office played pass the buck, and that no one truly took accountability for investigating properly the incident that resulting in his grandson's death or as he claims, “murder.”

One thing is obvious after months of investigation. This is not a clean case, mistakes were made, no one is accepting responsibility, everyone is pointing fingers elsewhere, when we ask questions, and either the state Attorney General or the US Justice Department needs to open a case and investigate, if for no other reason but to bring closure to the grandfather, mother and the family.

Every death deserves an honest and transparent investigation with answers to the family left behind.

What follows are excerpts from the grandfather's written statement and interviews with Rudy Contreras, and in his own words of the events that led to the unresolved death of his grandson...

"My grandson, Donovan Contreras, was murdered on July 12, 2019, in Alamogordo, New Mexico at the Motel 6 in room 216.

At least 5 people were seen running from room 216, after witnesses heard arguing and fighting coming from room 216 above them, and then hearing a gun shot.

Only 4 of the 5 individuals were officially interviewed by law enforcement. Those 4 were Dominique Cruze De La O, Julian Silva Schumann. Keith Oliveras, and Telando Garcia. The 5th individual referred to and by law enforcement only as "Dude' (in police reports) (suspected to be the former sheriff’s son, and was not interviewed.

Dominique De La O, was seen running with a backpack and tossing it to another and he decided to walk to the police station, some 4 hours after Donovan was murdered, to report that Donovan had "shot himself."

Law enforcement immediately established a false narrative of suicide, even before any officers had arrived at the crime scene and even before anyone was officially interviewed; much less before the investigation was initiated."

The grandfather's statement continues, "Donovan died from a gunshot wound to the right side of his head. Donovan was dominantly left-handed."

He was a young black man and 24 years old, “and as such “no one cares about his death,” claims the grandfather. 

The grandfather, Rudy's statement goes on; "Donovan's parents were not notified about Donovan's death until 9 hours after it has been reported. Contact was made 9 hours after it was reported by Det Diana Chaves and Sgt. Rodney Shamrack, and that was the ONLY TIME that law enforcement ever made contact with Donovan's family, even to this day unless the family-initiated contact.

On two other occasions we had face to face contact with law enforcement was because we reached out to them, specifically to Detective Raymond Brown.

We found out much later that Donovan had been wrongfully targeted in an undercover operation that involved members of law enforcement and confidential informants and that ultimately resulted in Donovan being murdered and a shame investigation being conducted."

The grandfather Rudy continued, in fact Det Brown was communicating with OMI Pathologist as early as 3 days after Donovan's death and telling them that he saw nothing other than suicide, while on the same day July 15, 2019, he was telling our family he was investigating a suicide..."

The grandfather Rudy then asked if he could tell us, about an incident from 10 months prior and how it ties into his death and the alleged cover-up. He accuses Det. Diana Chaves of racially profiling his grandson Donovan and tracking him for 10 months.

Per the grandfather Rudy, "on 9/22/18, after a party that Donovan had attended at 907 Arapaho Trail in Alamogordo, a search was conducted of that residence by Det Diana Chaves and other law enforcement." According to the grandfather Rudy, "Donovan had already left and was not present during the search." Donnovan's grandfather Rudy then claims, "Det Diana Chaves conspired with the homeowner in falsely accusing Donovan of ownership of a wallet with cocaine inside, that Det Chaves recovered at the residence during the search. The wallet had Donovan's ID in it and a folded dollar bill with cocaine inside it. Photos taken of the wallet in police reports do not show Donovan's ID in it when photographed into evidence."

The grandfather Rudy continued, "Det. Chavez then first made contact with Donovan at 10/25/18 at his place of work and she told him his wallet was at the police station and that he needed to come and pick it up. Donovan told her that she was mistaken, because he had his wallet on him and he pulled it out of his pocket and it to her, and he proceeded to showed her his legal ID, she simply walked away."

Per the grandfather Rudy, "on 11/20/18, Det Chaves, wrongfully arrested Donovan and falsely charged him with ownership of the wallet and cocaine possession."

During booking according to the grandfather, Detective Chavez, transferred Donovan's ID and personal card from his wallet and places the items in the wallet they already had in their custody and then takes photographs, thus staging the evidence.

Court records show that the family filed a lawsuit against the city for wrongful arrest and a number of other concerns, and asserted the details around the case with an accusation that matches the grandfather's statement.

In the Complaint, Plaintiffs assert that Detective Chavez, “in violation of the constitutional and civil rights against [Mr.] Contreras[, ] . . . illegal[ly] and wrongful[ly]” arrested Donovan on November 20, 2018. Plaintiffs further state that Chavez took “illegal actions . . . with wrongful charges to obtain a grand jury indictment” against Donovan on March 19, 2019. [Docs. 1-1; 1-2]. They also allege that Detective Brown failed “to conduct in good faith a proper, thorough, impartial, unbiased and complete investigation into the wrongful death of Donovan Contreras . . . on July 12, 2019, in Alamogordo, New Mexico.” [Doc. 1-2]. Thus, the factual statements in the Complaint allege that (1) Donovan was Plaintiff Rudy Contreras's grandson; (2) Chavez arrested Donovan on November 20, 2018; (3) a grand jury indicted Donovan on March 19, 2019; (4) Chavez did something with respect to the charges presented to the grand jury; and (5) Donovan died on July 12, 2019, in Alamogordo, New Mexico. [Docs. 1-1; 1-2]. Plaintiffs' allegations about Brown's investigation could be interpreted to allege either that Det. Brown failed to conduct an investigation, or that his investigation was intentionally or negligently unfair and incomplete. [Doc. 1-2]. Plaintiffs seek “unspecified damages, ” interest, and court costs, as well as Donovan's personal belongings, allegedly still in Defendant's possession."

The city as the Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint: for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). [Doc. 4]. Defendant argues that the Complaint must be dismissed because it does not include sufficient facts or specify how the alleged conduct violated any constitutional right. Id. at 3-5. Defendant also maintains that it is entitled to a dismissal with prejudice because it is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. Id. at 6-7. Finally, Defendant argues that, even if the City of Alamogordo were substituted as the proper defendant, dismissal would still be warranted because the Complaint does not state a claim for municipal liability.

The case was dismissed because the "Complaint fails to state a claim for relief for the following reasons. First, the Complaint does not allow the Court “to draw the reasonable inference” that Defendant, Chavez, or Brown violated any constitutional rights or injured Donovan or Plaintiffs. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Plaintiffs' characterization of the Detectives' conduct as “illegal” or “wrongful” is not sufficient to show that Plaintiffs' legal claims are plausible. Id. For example, the Complaint states that Chavez “illegal[ly] and wrongful[ly]” arrested Donovan. [Doc. 1-2]. This statement is conclusory because it does not provide facts showing how the arrest was wrongful, or how Donovan or Plaintiffs were injured by the arrest. Cf. Martinez v. Lujan, No. CV 10-0652 JCH/WDS, 2011 WL 13284668, at *6 (D.N.M. July 11, 2011) (unpublished) (“To recover damages under . . . § 1983 for wrongful arrest, a plaintiff must show he was arrested without probable cause.”). The assertion that Chavez acted illegally with respect to the grand jury does not state a claim because it does not specify what she did, when she did it, whether Donovan was convicted or confined because of her conduct, or what specific right or law she violated. “[C]onclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim on which relief can be based ” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.

To reiterate, the factual averments in the Complaint state only that (1) Chavez arrested Donovan on November 20, 2018; (2) a grand jury indicted Donovan on March 19, 2019; (3) Chavez did something with respect to the charges presented to the grand jury; and (4) Donovan died on July 12, 2019, in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Without more, these facts do not show specific constitutional violations or tort claims because they do not show what Defendant or Chavez did in relation to the arrest or grand jury, how those actions were unlawful, how Donovan died, what Brown did or failed to do in investigating Donovan's death, whether and how Defendant played a role in any of these events, or how Plaintiffs were harmed by the alleged conduct. As drafted, the Complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). Second, as a department of the City of Alamogordo (the “City”), the Alamogordo Police Department is not a separate suable entity and, therefore, is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. See Martinez v. Winner, 771 F.2d 424, 444 (10th Cir. 1985) (stating that § 1983 claims against a police department were properly dismissed with prejudice because the police department was not “separate suable entity”) modified on other grounds, 778 F.2d 553 (10th Cir. 1985), vacated on other grounds sub nom. Tyus v. Martinez, 475 U.S. 1138 (1986); § 1983 (providing for suit against a “person”). Hence, Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against Defendant must be dismissed with prejudice."

From the looks of the case filed ,and the ruling, it would appears the case was poorly pieced together by the Donovan counsel and was not submitted in their best interest in order to push a murder investigation forward. 

Counsel did a poor job in execution of a case that does not end well for the Contreras family. It did not help in championing an investigation into the alleged murder of Donovan.

The case basically focused on circumstances around Donovan's arrest and not around the questionable murder investigation.

The Grandfather, Rudy, is at wits end and has investigated and plead with law enforcement to reopen the case of his grandsons death at the Motel 6, and the others.

The documents around the case classified it as a suicide though he was shot on the opposite side of his dominant hand. Then it was classified as an unexplained death. There is questions as to what the legitimate classification is but the police department refuses comment and depending upon who’s office one talks with the death is either classified as an accidental death or an unexplained death. 

A new police chief has been put into place in Alamogordo since this incident and the family is begging for him to review the case. Fear of a lack of justice in Otero County means that the family would like an independent investigation by the Attorney General’s office or the Department of Justice. Sadly every level of government official from the local leaders to the federal government leaders seem to want to ignore the plight of this family.

Rather, Donovan was murdered or indeed the death was the result of a very bad accident the family deserves closure. The numbers of deaths, around the Donovan death does raise a number of questions and, seems way to coincidental to be just happenstance

On behalf, of the family we ask that the state attorney general’s office or the department of justice look into the matter

By way of this story, that does not even scratch the surface of the events around Donovan’s death, we call on the public to call for justice for Donovan.

We also call upon the office of Congressman, Gabe Vasquez and the office of Senator, Ben Ray Lujan,  to at a minimum send a letter to the US Department of Justice to open an inquiry on behalf of this family into the death of Donovan Contreras. 

Note: this story is written from the perspective of the grieving family of Donovan Contreras and the passion of the grandfather, Rudy seeking justice for his grandson and for justice for other minority families who’s deaths have been brushed to the wayside. We support the various families referenced to seek justice for any murder no matter the circumstances, race, origin or economic situation. 

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