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Sunday, December 16, 2007

[NM] Officer Susan Kuchma killed by her son

BREAKING: State police officer killed in Las Cruces, son in custody (1:52 p.m.)
Son, Justin Quintana, 25, arrested for murder
Las Cruces Sun-News
By Jose L. Medina and Jason Gibbs/Sun-News reporters
Article Launched: 12/13/2007 09:17:33 AM MST
An off-duty New Mexico State Police officer was shot and killed early Thursday in Las Cruces... the officer's 25-year-old son, Justin Quintana has been arrested and charged with an open count of murder in connection with the shooting. "It was our state police officer Susan Kuchma that was killed," Lt. Rick Anglada said. Kuchma, 43, and a five-year veteran of the department was married to fellow state police patrolman Patrick Kuchma...

New Mexico State Police officer Susan Kuchma killed in Las Cruces; son in custody
Las Cruces Sun-News
By Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporter
...Officer Susan Kuchma, 43, a five-year veteran of the state police, was shot once and died about 2:30 a.m. at the intersection of Dr. King Way and Taylor Street, only a few feet from where her son - 25-year-old Justin Quintana - lives. By mid-afternoon, Quintana, described by State Police Chief Faron Segotta as having a history of mental health issues, had been charged with an open count of murder and booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center...

Susan with her husband Patrick Kuchma

Homicide suspect claims shooting was accidental
Las Cruces Sun-News
By Jose L. Medina/Sun-News reporter
A Las Cruces man claims the death of his mother -- New Mexico State Police officer Susan Kuchma -- was accidental and the gun used in the shooting had been taken from the officer's home without her knowledge... Justin Quintana, 25, told police that prior to Thursday's early morning shooting, he had gone to his mother's home and entered through a window to "borrow" a gun that he knew the officer kept in a closet... Quintana later telephoned his mother and told her he had the gun and asked that he be taken to see a nurse. Kuchma, 43, went to the home in the 2300 block of Dr. King Way about 2:30 a.m. and, according to Quintana, began "tripping" when he showed her the gun... Quintana said Kuchma left the residence. He followed but the gun slipped, he said, and he accidentally shot his mother once in the head...

New Mexico State police patrolman Freida Jones at Officer Susan Kuchma's work desk.

UPDATE: Officer attempted to seek help for son's strange behavior (6:50 p.m.)
Las Cruces Sun-News
By Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporter
Thursday was not the first time police had come in contact with Justin Quintana, the 25-year-old man accused of killing his mother, New Mexico State Police officer Susan Kuchma. The Santa Fe native's sometimes strange behavior - a likely result of paranoid schizophrenia - had been documented before, behavior that resulted in at least one arrest. There were several incidents involving Las Cruces police... One of Kuchma's family members said Friday that the officer loved her son and took great pains to document his behavior with the goal of getting him help. But her efforts were often frustrated. "It's a lot of red tape," said Kuchma's niece and Quintana's cousin, Tenika Susana Sosa-Quintana, 28, of Mesquite. "...we all have civil liberties and Justin is an adult and Justin has not been deemed incompetent by any court. (Kuchma) doesn't have the power of authority or the ability to make the decisions to have him hospitalized and that's just the way that our system works"...

Slain police officer 'liked to help people'
Officer killed in Las Cruces remembered for her caring

The New Mexican
By Natalie Storey
In 2001, when Santa Fe native Susan Kuchma told her future husband she wanted to be a police officer like him, she said it was because she saw he was having so much fun. Patrick Kuchma, a 17-year veteran of the state police force who said he lost his best friend and the love of his life when Susan Kuchma was shot with her own gun Thursday in Las Cruces, said his wife was telling the truth about how much she enjoyed helping people. "She was genuinely nice to people," he said. "And I think this is kind of a rarity. A lot of officers will say they got into law enforcement because they wanted to help people, but many officers who say that probably aren't telling the truth. They are in it for the action. Susan was genuinely in it to help people. She liked to help people"...Quintana was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a condition with symptoms of both a mood disorder and schizophrenia, about 2 1/2 years ago, his father, Richard Miera, said... "They were very close," he said of his ex-wife and son. "What happened is a disease. A disease made him sick, and he didn't know what he was doing. He was a good son. Susan loved him dearly, and he loved his mother dearly." Miera said he and Susan Kuchma went through a lot in the past several years to get their son into treatment. He said he once took his son to a hospital after Quintana wouldn't eat for several days because he was afraid the food would poison him... [Susan's current husband, State Officer] Patrick Kuchma said his wife was "just being Susan" when she went to check on her son Thursday morning. "She was truly dedicated to helping her son get well," he said. "Every day, she wanted to find out how Justin was and was wondering how he was doing"...

Slain NM officer remembered fondly
Las Cruces Sun-News, NM
By Diana M. Alba and Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporters
LAS CRUCES The ex-husband of Susan Kuchma a New Mexico State Police officer who was killed ... "She loved him wholeheartedly," said an emotional Miera. "We both did. It's the hardest thing I've ever been through"...

1 comment:

  1. Back on patrol
    Return to duty helps Patrick Kuchma deal with aftermath of wife's murder
    Las Cruces Sun-News
    By Jose L. Medina

    Audio: http://extras.lcsun-news.com/KUCHMA.WMA

    LAS CRUCES — Patrick Kuchma admits life will never be the same.

    But — nearly three weeks after his wife was killed — the veteran New Mexico State Police officer knew it was time to regain some sense of normalcy.

    He returned to work Jan. 1, rejoining State Police District 4, the same district where he worked side-by-side with his slain wife, Officer Susan Kuchma.

    In an interview, Kuchma, 44, recalled what it's been like to be back on the job following his wife's death. He also shared his feelings about Justin Quintana, his wife's 25-year-old son, who is charged with killing the off-duty officer on Dec. 13.

    "I don't think (my life) will ever be back to normal, because Susan and I, we spent a lot of time together," he said. "If we weren't working, we were together ... . Susan and I had a really, I want to call it, unique relationship. We didn't argue, we didn't fight ... . Being with Susan for nine years, actually they were the best nine years of my life. I got quite comfortable with her, comfortable and a really secure feeling being with her. I don't think I'll ever get that back again. My life is changed forever."
    So, how do you start again?

    "I had to get it in my mind that I have a job to do and to get out there and do it," he said. "And I did."

    He said he made the decision to go back to work after visiting family in Pennsylvania, a trip he was to take with his wife, finalizing the plans four hours prior to her death.

    "I suppose if I would have taken off four or five months, it really wouldn't have mattered," he said. "It probably would not have been beneficial to take off that much time, because by not keeping yourself busy, you have too much time to think."

    Like others who have suffered a tragic loss, Kuchma knew work was a way of getting his life back in order. However, he has to do it at the workplace he shared with his wife.

    "And I think that's the toughest thing right there," said Capt. Richard Williams, Kuchma's commanding officer. "A lot of times, people use work as avenue of escape ... he doesn't have that luxury ... he's constantly reminded of her and the good times they had.

    "I admire his strength," Williams added.

    Though they typically worked separate shifts, the Kuchmas often met for coffee when one was heading home from and the other was heading to work. They shared a computer at work. They helped each other get ready for work.

    "It's kind of strange because she's no longer there," Kuchma said. "There's strange things I have to deal with. There's a lot of things that bring back memories of Susan, things around the office. Even generally there's just a lot of things that make me think about her a lot."

    When Susan Kuchma joined the force in 2002, Patrick Kuchma said he became a mentor of sorts, often fielding telephone calls from his advice-seeking wife. The calls decreased as Susan Kuchma — called a "really good officer" and a "natural" at her job — learned the ropes.

    "I honestly think she was a natural at this job," Kuchma said.

    Kuchma described feeling like he was about to go into shock when Williams delivered the news of his wife's death.

    "It was strange being on the other end," said Kuchma. Several times over his career he has delivered similar news to others.

    Susan Kuchma was shot and killed outside her son's home. Quintana, her only son, has been charged with an open count of murder and with stealing the firearm from the Kuchmas' home that was used in the shooting.

    Quintana, 25, has yet to enter a plea because of questions surrounding his competency. He has been sent to the state's mental health facility in Las Vegas. He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, claiming in court documents that the shooting was accidental.

    Patrick Kuchma said he has a "tremendous amount of anger" toward Quintana and feels he should spend the rest of his life in prison or in a mental health facility. Kuchma said he doesn't view lifelong incarceration as a tool for revenge, rather he views it as a way for Quintana to receive treatment that he has in the past refused to undertake.

    "Basically what I'm getting at is, I don't think needs to be out in the public," Kuchma said. "He does not need to be out on his own because the fact still remains, he's mentally ill, he is a paranoid schizophrenic and he has the capability of not taking medication and this could happen to somebody else."

    Jose Medina can be reached at jmedina@lcsun-news.com



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