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Missing Marine’s body found in a NM ditch

Marines with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Military Funeral Honors Detail conduct a military funeral for a fallen service member at Andersonville National Cemetery, Andersonville, Ga., June 10, 2015. (Capt. Justin Jacobs/U.S. Marine Corps)
August 22, 2019

The body of a Marine veteran who went missing in July has been found and a suspect in his possible murder case is in custody.

After being found in a ditch south of Belen, New Mexico on Friday night, Matthew Gurule, 32, was positively identified Saturday, but police won’t say how he died, the Associated Press reported.

Gurule was last seen July 27 at the Isleta Resort and Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That night was the last time anyone heard from him, after he called his mother, Sandra Miller, at about 12:30 a.m. to tell her that he was being asked to leave the casino.

Miller expressed shock that her son died, “here in your town, a place he wanted to call his hometown,” she said Saturday morning, according to News-Bulletin.

“I don’t want his death to be in vain,” Miller told reporters. “There needs to be changes in this community. In my heart of hearts, I know God is a just God and justice will prevail.”

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When Gurule disappeared, Belen PD initiated an investigation and included many jurisdictions in nearby counties and was also assisted by New Mexico State Police.

“During the investigation, multiple leads were developed and followed, which led to the identification of suspects, witnesses and other leads,”  said Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil.

On Aug. 10, 37-year-old Francisco Gomez of Los Lunas, New Mexico, was arrested for allegedly using Gurule’s credit card. Gomez told police that he found the card on the side of a road near where Gurule’s body was found.

Gomez is now facing charges of open-count murder and other felonies, Vigil said.

“At this time, evidence led to only this individual being charged. There may be other individuals who will face other charges,” Vigil added. “This has been a trying case for all the agencies involved and our community.”

Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez offered Gurule’s family his condolences.

“I want to thank all the men and women, all the agencies, that participated in this case to bring the family some peace as we start the justice process,” Rodriguez said.

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Amanda Bratten, Gurule’s sister, said she and the rest of her family are devastated that someone would harm another human being.

“Matthew was such an amazing, caring brother. Not only to me, Sara and Rheanna, but to all of his Marine brothers,” Bratten said. “We have felt the love and support from this community. I can only hope that after all of this is over, there are changes made within New Mexico to keep the community safer.”

Miller thanked the people involved in finding her son and the media for making the “story real and heartfelt and true.”

“This is not fake,” said Miller. “This is real life. We have to do something to fix this. We hope to get justice soon.”

When asked what her last words to her son would be, she said, “You’re in Heaven now. You’re free, flying with the angels. I love you.”