A Hobbs man who allegedly shot and killed a Lovington man in early February after reportedly kidnapping the victim with a group of men has been charged with murder.
Justin P. Bates, 24, forcibly took Josue Orosco to a field off Stiles Road between Hobbs and Lovington on Feb. 3 where he battered and murdered Orosco, according to a criminal complaint.
Bates was arrested and charged Monday by the Lea County Sheriff’s Office with murder and kidnapping, both first-degree felonies, aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and possession of a firearm by a felon, a fourth-degree felony.
Orosco, 21, suffered blunt force trauma to the head and a single gunshot to both his head and pelvis, according to authorities. Police said Orosco was left in the field to die. Some of his family members were informed of the killing by anonymous sources, while being warned not to look for him.
Orosco was reported missing by his family in early February under suspicious circumstances. Orosco’s uncle told police he and other family members received several anonymous phone calls and text messages stating Orosco was dead in a field between Hobbs and Seminole.
“(The uncle) also stated that people anonymously told him that he needed to stop looking for Josue, or the same thing would happen to him or anyone else who attempts to find Josue,” states the criminal complaint. “He advised that he was told that Orosco had been disposed of in a field.”
An Hobbs police detective said in the criminal complaint that he contacted Orosco’s uncle again a few days later.
“He informed me that no activity was seen on his Facebook profile and that several anonymous sources informed him that Josue was deceased,” the detective wrote. “He told me that several people would send him information, but were afraid to report it to the police.”
Police said Bates was identified as being one of the people with Orosco about the time of his death.
Another Hobbs man allegedly on site when Orosco was killed, Israel V. Beltran-Venegas, 27, was charged Feb. 18 with kidnapping, a first-degree felony.
According to court records, on Feb. 3, two days before Orosco was initially reported missing, Beltran-Venegas admitted he was part of a group that took Orosco to the field, where Orosco was struck on the head with a gun and then shot during daylight hours.
In addition to Beltran-Venegas and Bates, two other men are charged with kidnapping Orosco. Police said Hector Aguilar, of Hobbs, was arrested for kidnapping, while a fourth suspect — Diego Garcia — has not yet located and arrested.
Garcia, 32, of Hobbs, is wanted for accessory to murder and kidnapping in connection to Orosco’s murder.
“He is considered armed and dangerous,” Hobbs police said Tuesday. “Please contact the Police Department or Lea County Crimestoppers at 393-8005 if you have information regarding his whereabouts.”
On the night of Feb. 9, detectives searched the area for 2-3 hours where Orosco’s body was eventually located, but didn’t find any evidence of a body. Law enforcement found Orosco’s body the following day after searching the field off Stiles Road for five hours with all-terrain vehicles.
A Feb. 11 autopsy of Orosco’s body was followed up with a report of findings on May 3. Orosco’s cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds to the head and pelvis. Another significant contributing condition was listed as hypothermia. Orosco’s manner of death was determined a homicide.
A bench warrant for Bates’ arrest was issued May 3.
Brian Dunlap, interim Hobbs chief of police, said authorities believe Orosco was kidnapped from a Hobbs motel and taken to the field between Hobbs and Lovington where he was left to die. Police said it’s not yet clear if Orosco was shot before he was taken to the remote location.
“We believe that he was taken from the city of Hobbs against his will outside of the city limits,” Dunlap said. “Although the death didn’t necessarily occur in the city limits, the initial crime of taking him against his will out of the city limits did. We do know that he was taken from here against his will.”
Thomas May murder
Orosco was identified as a suspect early on in the 2016 murder investigation of Thomas May. Hobbs Police said there’s no indication Orosco’s murder and the 2016 murder case are related, although Orosco told police that Samuel “Sammy” Piñon Jr. was the one that shot the 32-year-old May.
Orosco was at the home where May was murdered in the 1100 block of West Princess Jeanne Drive on Oct. 26. 2016, shortly before May was shot five times and killed. Piñon, 32, of Hobbs was convicted of May’s murder in Lea County District Court on Oct. 26 — the two-year anniversary of May’s death.
After having his requests for a new trial denied, Piñon was sentenced on March 28 by Fifth Judicial District Judge Mike Stone to 17 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction.
Bates’ prior charges
Bates was charged Monday with possession of a firearm by a felon because he had pleaded no contest to larceny of a firearm on April 18, 2016.
On Dec. 22, Bates allegedly shot a man three times in the leg at a home in the 700 block of North Linam Street in Hobbs. The victim was treated on scene by Hobbs EMS before he was transported to Lea Regional Medical Center, then airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock.
The victim said he encountered Bates when he was checking on a friend. According to Bates, the two men exchanged words while the victim stood over him and provoked him. Bates reportedly said he stood up and shot the victim three times on instinct with a 9 mm handgun.
Bates was arrested Dec. 31 and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony.
While out of jail on bond for the aggravated battery charge, Bates allegedly choked a woman with a heavy gold chain necklace on Jan. 4 at a residence in the 900 block of East Michigan Drive in Hobbs. The woman survived. Bates was subsequently charged with aggravated battery against a household member, a third-degree felony.
In April 2016, Bates was convicted of battery against a household member for choking the same victim until she nearly lost consciousness. As part of a plea agreement, Bates was sentenced to supervised probation for one year.