The following is part one of a series involving a 2014 New Mexico double murder trial. I look forward to your responses to this case and discussing the court system process in America. – Ella Mentry Find me on Twitter @EllamentryMDW
We have seen it on the weekly network crime shows. The defense attorney never reveals whether or not his or her client is guilty of murder. It makes no difference. The job is all about reasonable doubt and convincing 12 men and women of its existence.
We begin with some background. Just before dawn on August 2, 2005 a 911 came into the dispatch center of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Renee Ohlemacher, 20, was on the other end of the line claiming to be hiding in her bedroom closet because she had heard shouting, screams and gunshots coming from her parents’ room across the hall, followed by heavy hurried footsteps pounding down the stairs.
Officers were dispatched, but could not find the residence on Dover Court because they first went to Dover Place. Knowing time was vital, Renee was instructed that if she was safe to exit the house, she was to get to the front door so officers could see her. On her way down the hall to the stairs, Renee passed the lifeless bodies of John “Greg” and Bernadette Ohlemacher. Police arrived on foot shortly thereafter and whisked the young woman away.
APD swept through the home finding a barking sheltie, two bodies, an open balcony door and a number of bullet casings, but no suspects or weapon. Those casings would make a significant difference later in the story.
Soon after the cul de sac was swarming with cops, cars, a crime van and drenched in yellow tape. Renee sat in the back of Officer Holly Rodriquez’ squad car and made a phone call that would direct the tenet of the subsequent investigation and turn the girl’s life into a swirling storm of accusations, mistrust and hatred.
That call would be to Bernadette’s sister, Jessica Montoya who would play a role during the investigation, but arrive as a significant player on the witness stand nearly nine years later. It was not so much what Renee told her aunt that early summer morning, but how she said it. Composed and what some would suggest sans emotion, the niece told her mother’s elder sibling that her parents were dead. Jessica naturally became highly emotional and soon came to wonder why Renee did not. That question turned into full-blown distrust soon after. Even Greg’s family back in Ohio could not discount the potential for motive. It seems the orphaned daughter received somewhere in the area of $500,000 as the couple’s only heir.
Meanwhile, case agent Frank Flores arrived on scene and began to focus on attaining a search warrant for the family home and interviewed the only witness, Renee Ohlemacher. At trial, Flores explained the initial role of the interview is to determine any oddities that may turn witness into suspect or clear them of suspicion in the crucial early stages. Over time, Renee was interrogated hard five times but, “was never a suspect,” he told ADA Jason Yamato. She was officially cleared a year later.
“Not so fast!” became the defense team’s banner cry. It appears Aunt Jessica was not the only one concerned with Renee’s demeanor on that August morning. Rodriquez, a second year patrol officer with limited experience spent approximately one hour with the witness and found the woman’s lack of hysterics disconcerting. Years and a detective shield later with hundreds of homicide cases under her belt, she expressed to the jury her rookie opinion was ill conceived in that a lack of response does not indicate guilt. Rodriquez deemed Renee’s reaction “appropriate.”
Detective Carl Ross also arrived at the Dover Court address and assigned tasks to his crime scene unit members to laboriously comb the house inside and out. As the primary detective, Ross’ duties included tagging and bagging evidence, directing the crime scene photographer and writing reports related to what his team found. Ross would play a major part in the reasonable doubt category at trial. The defense would sit both the victims’ daughter and APD squarely in the hot seat.
Renee had motive and opportunity. Though Randy Ohlemacher refuses to believe she pulled the trigger, but if his niece did have a hand in it, she had an accomplice.
The defense team insists APD had the motive and ability to plant evidence against their client, Ronald Santiago, specifically, a shell casing found in his garage that matched casings found at the murder scene.
So, who is Ronald Santiago and how is he wrapped up in this double homicide? We will cover that in the next installment of Reasonable Doubt.
Feel free to chime in as we move along in this very intriguing and often heartbreaking case.