A woman initially thought to be a kidnapping victim now faces a murder by vehicle charge in a deadly New Mexico highway chase this week, officials said Saturday.
Jeannine Jaramillo, 46, of Albuquerque, is accused of making up a story about a kidnapping and carjacking, which led to a chase that killed two people and injured two others, New Mexico State Police said.
Jaramillo was arrested Saturday afternoon. She faces charges of first-degree murder by vehicle, receiving a stolen vehicle, fleeing law enforcement, and tampering with evidence, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said at a news conference.
“I am confident in saying that Jarmillo acted of her own accord,” Carmack-Altwies said.
State Police said Santa Fe city officers thought they were pursuing a reported carjacker and kidnapper Wednesday morning as they entered a chase with a white Chevrolet Malibu. The Malibu later went the wrong way down the northbound lanes of Interstate 25.
The chase caused a five-vehicle accident that killed Robert Duran, 43, a Santa Fe police officer, and Frank Lovato, 62, a retired firefighter from Las Vegas, New Mexico, state police said in a statement.
Two others, including Jaramillo, were hospitalized for injuries not thought to be life-threatening, authorities said.
At the accident scene just south of the Santa Fe city boundary, witnesses said they saw a man flee, bolstering the story, authorities said.
Authorities searched for the alleged kidnapper but later said the person had escaped.
The Malibu had been stolen Feb. 28 in Las Vegas, New Mexico, after its owner left in running to warm it up, state police said. A key to the car was later found in a police vehicle where Jaramillo had been placed after the crash, state police said.
Jaramillo was initially described as a victim.
“I crawled out the driver side window, I fell to the ground and I looked up and there was the police, and I just ran for my life,” Jaramillo told NBC affiliate KOB of Albuquerque shortly after the crash.
Jaramillo had told a contact Wednesday that she had been abducted at Knifepoint, and that person called 911, authorities said at a news conference Saturday. It was not clear if that call took place before the chase.
After another chase in September, Jaramillo had told police a similar story, that her boyfriend forced her to commit crime at knifepoint, authorities said at the news conference.
By Friday night, evidence showed she was alone in the Malibu, authorities said Saturday.
Only one occupant was recorded by the car’s event data recorder, and her DNA was found on the driver’s airbag, state police said in a statement Saturday night.
The state public defender’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jaramillo was booked into the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility on Saturday night and was being held without bond.
If convicted, Jaramillo could face 30 years to life on the first-degree murder charge, the district attorney said.