Terror from home invasion spree still lingers

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A small noise startled Donna Foster awake.

As she looked around her dark bedroom, she saw the outline of two heads in the doorway and as she realized someone was standing beside with a gun pointed at her head.

Quickly the man pulled the covers up and over, holding them tight to her head.

“God’s help got me through it because I started praying. I said ‘help me God’ twice, then I said ‘What do you want?’ real angry like,” the grandmother recalled.

“Then I said ‘You need Jesus’ and pretty soon he asked me where my money was.”

Foster’s Portales home was one of five invaded in July 2008 by a group of Clovis gang members.

The four teens and one adult forced their way into homes — three homes in Clovis, one in Portales and one in Curry County — in the middle of the night, woke the sleeping occupants, terrorizing and in some cases assaulting them while they stole valuables and even vehicles.

A fifth man was arrested for having a peripheral role in the violent crime spree.

Foster says it’s been difficult to overcome the fear she was left with after the incident. But her children installed security lights and a security system at her home, helping to make her feel safe again.

This week ringleader Reynaldo Jeremy “Cartoon” Enriquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the fifth home invasion.

The two-week spree ended July 28, 2008, when they were caught hiding in a residence near the scene of their last home invasion.

Police said the gang shot multiple times at a terrorized victim running down the street from a home he was house-sitting in the 1700 block of Sheldon in Clovis.

20-year-old Enriquez pleaded guilty on Friday on Foster’s case and received an additional three and a half years. He has one more case pending and is expected to serve more than 36 years when all is said and done.

Teens Mark Aragon, 16, Alex Romero, 17, Oscar Hernandez, 18, and Marco Rivero, 18, are in various stages of court proceedings.

Fernando Romero, 23, is serving a four-year sentence for intimidation of a witness and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Assistant District Attorney Camille Pedrick Chavez is prosecuting the cases for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office.

She said the violence of the invasions was escalating and had police not stopped them when they did, it was just a matter of time before someone was seriously hurt or killed.

The crimes were brazen and shocking, particularly because of the ages of the perpetrators and the seeming lack of concern for what they might encounter in the homes they broke into.

It is far more common for home invasion type incidents to occur between people who know each other or when there is a dispute or debt of some kind, Chavez said.

However in this case, the defendants didn’t know the victims.

“These weren’t kids that were breaking into cars and stealing. The victims that they were choosing, most of the people were not people that could not normally defend themselves,” she said.

“It’s kind of A-typical. They didn’t case houses necessarily, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason.”

And the control that Enriquez appeared to have over his group of West Side Locos members was unusual, she said.

“I was actually surprised, especially with Jeremy and his role in case. The level of control he seemed to exercise over the other kids was actually surprising,” she said.

“He was 19 when all of this occurred its surprising for somebody that young to be quite this controlling.”

Enriquez was later among a group of eight violent inmates to escape from the Curry County Detention Center.

He was recaptured about 24-hours later near Lubbock and has been at the Curry County jail awaiting trial and sentencing in the home invasions.

“Our hope is to get Jeremy done next week so he can get to (the Department of Corrections) and start serving his sentence,” Chavez said.

It has been a challenging case to prosecute, Chavez said, with five different crime scenes spanning two counties and two cities, the ages of the defendants, variables with who was present at which crime and number of victims.

Thus far, Enriquez’ case is nearing completion, one juvenile has begun serving his sentence in juvenile detention, one teen is pending a hearing to determine if he should be sentenced as an adult and another is undergoing a competency evaluation, she said.