Rita Denise Fay Jaramillo
Rita lived on the outskirts of Los Lunas, a town south of Albuquerque, in a rural area called El Cerro Mission. Rita, who is listed under “Rita Denise Fay” on New Mexico’s Missing Persons website, is known as Rita Jaramillo to her family. Rita was the parts manager at the local Auto Zone. Rita’s daughter, Leslie, last spoke with her on the phone on September 20th, 2018. Rita had planned to visit Leslie the next morning so they could get Leslie’s son ready for picture day. However, Rita never arrived.
Considering Rita’s and Leslie’s busy lives, Leslie wasn’t alarmed when she didn’t hear from her mom. However, on Sunday, September 23rd, “My grandmother called and said mom’s house had burned down. I drove over there, texted and called but there was no answer,” Leslie said. A call had come into Valencia County Fire Marshals received a call at about 2 am, on September 23rd about the fire in Rita’s mobile home. One Fire Marshal, Casey Davis, declined to speak more about the case except that fire was very suspicious. Two tires were in the home. Leslie also discovered that Rita had not shown up to her shifts at Auto Zone on the 22nd, and that her car was not found at the home.
Martina Archando, Rita’s mother, later stated that she had come by Rita’s home on Friday and Saturday, but Rita’s gate was closed. Martina figured that she had just missed Rita and they would catch up later. The following Monday, Rita’s car was found in Albuquerque by the Albuquerque Police Department, at an apartment on Wyoming and Comanche. An APD officer called Leslie regarding the car. Leslie told the Valencia County News Bulletin, “I said it’s part of a missing person’s case and to hold on. I had to call the sheriff’s department to let them know,” Romero said. “I asked him if it looked like there was a shovel or any blood in the car. He said there was nothing.” However, when the Valencia County Sheriffs Office went to inspect the car, it was gone.
In October, the state police began investigating the case. “The case was starting to branch out into other counties as the investigation continued,” Valencia County Undersheriff Mark Kmatz told the News Bulletin. “The state took over so there wouldn’t be any jurisdictional issues.” He also said that state police have followed up on a number of tips from around the state, and that they have a person of interest in the case. Rita’s car has not been rediscovered.
8 months after the fire, state police arrested Arthur Lovato on suspicion of first degree murder. “He’s evil,” Denise, Rita’s other daughter, said. “Evil old man, no heart, no sympathy, no remorse, just plain out evil.”
The grand jury indicted Lovato on five charges — first-degree murder (depraved mind), first-degree murder (willful and deliberate), second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Lovato pled not guilty in June of 2019.
Jaramillo’s body has not been found, and it is unclear what evidence the state police have against Lovato.