ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The couple accused of setting a homeless man on fire after throwing fireworks from a vehicle faced a judge Thursday. A judge set their bond at $100,000 cash or surety.
KRQE News 13 has learned that the husband tried to cover his tracks after video of his very unusual purple SUV was released to the public by the Albuquerque Police Department by painting his flash SUV white.
Joshua Benavidez, 31, and 31-year-old Irene Enriquez were arrested Wednesday evening after tips came pouring into police. It was about two weeks ago when surveillance video captured images of fireworks being thrown from their vehicle at a homeless man catching his pants on fire.
Detectives say a lot of tips rolled in identifying Benavidez as the owner of that SUV, but he continually denied being involved saying he had sold the vehicle weeks earlier, but according to the criminal complaint didn’t have the paperwork to confirm it. Neighbors told police otherwise saying that the SUV had been painted white within the last few days.
The biggest break came when Benavidez’s own son confided in a babysitter confessing what had happened. Police say the big key here was that surveillance video capturing it all.
Enriquez told police once they realized that the homeless man had caught fire, she wanted to get down from the car and put out the fire, but Benavidez wouldn’t let her.
KRQE News 13 also talked with neighbors. While they didn’t know the North Valley couple, they said they’re shocked to know a couple accused of setting someone on fire lives nearby.
“I have small children at home and you know they like riding their bikes around and to think there’s someone in that position scares me,” said Lisa Magdalen.
While neighbors are shaken up, the couple’s landlord said he’s not buying the story.
“I don’t believe they would do anything to harm anybody,” said William Garcia.
Garcia said they’re the best tenants he’s ever had.
“They pay their rent on time,” said Garcia. “They take good care of the place.”
Overall, he said they’re good people.
“I hope there are no charges brought against them, because I definitely feel like they’re the type of people that wouldn’t hurt anybody,” said Garcia.
One neighbor told KRQE News 13 they’ve actually seen the couple shoot off fireworks recently at their duplex.
Others, said they’ve definitely heard fireworks.
“Actually we hear them very very close and it’s often and it’s way after the Fourth of July, actually we heard some last weekend,” said Garcia.
This is far from the first time the couple’s faced a judge.
Deputies found Enriquez slumped behind the wheel of her car three years ago. She then led police on a chase going the wrong way down I-25 where a spike strip finally ended the chaos. In the passenger seat, her current boyfriend Benavidez.
Benavidez was arrested in 2005 for opening fire inside his home with children nearby. One bullet hit a crib where his baby son was sleeping.
That boy is now the ten-year-old who police said confessed to his babysitter about his parents throwing fireworks at a homeless man.