The Case of the Fatal Femme

Samantha Somegustava's boyfriend tells the homicide detective she has a "hard heart." By now, the cop knows what he means

Gabe Cruz's cousins and his girlfriend aren't sure how to proceed after learning about the Cavalier's being found on the reservation. None of them sees local media reports on the evening of March 3 about an unidentified murder victim in the cornfield, described as a Latino male in his early 20s.

Back at Phoenix Police Department headquarters, about all Detective Ballentine knows after his first day of investigation is that the victim's fingerprints haven't shown up in law enforcement computer files. This means he was never arrested in the United States.

Detective Schechterle, meanwhile, has learned that the fuse box on the road is from a 1999 Chevy Cavalier.

Samantha Somegustava admitted that she stole this 
Chevy Cavalier after shooting Gabe Cruz.
courtesy of Phoenix Police Department
Samantha Somegustava admitted that she stole this Chevy Cavalier after shooting Gabe Cruz.
Samantha Somegustava, shortly after her arrest on March 14, 2005.
Samantha Somegustava, shortly after her arrest on March 14, 2005.

An autopsy the following morning reveals that the murder victim died of three shotgun wounds to his neck and torso from close range. He also suffered numerous bruises and cuts.

"They shot the piss out of him," Jack Ballentine says. "This guy's a real victim."

Assistant medical examiner Kevin Horn notes in his postmortem report that testing of the victim's blood "did not reveal the presence of alcohol, other drugs of abuse, or significant medications."


Chris Ferschke considered Gabe Cruz one of his very best friends.

Ferschke had known Gabe for about four years, having met him while dating a waitress at a Denny's in Tempe. Gabe then was a cook at the restaurant, and Ferschke says he marveled at the Mexican immigrant's work ethic and upbeat attitude.

Ferschke, 32, a native of a Boston suburb, knew little Spanish. And Gabe knew just enough English to get by.

Yet the two men bonded.

"Gabe started inviting me over to his place after work, and we really got to know each other," Ferschke says. "He'd pull out a chess board, and we'd play for hours. He'd gone through a lot, and was really wise for his age. He was cultured and charismatic. Very old-school. We all loved him."

By "we," Ferschke is referring to the 100-person staff at Graham Central Station, where he's a bartender. In 2001, Ferschke persuaded his employers to hire Gabe Cruz as a bar back.

On Friday, March 4, Ferschke gets to work about 5 p.m., not knowing anything about his friend's disappearance until Gabe's panic-stricken cousin Rene starts calling the bar.

"Rene asked me if I'd spoken to Gabe," Ferschke recalls. "I said no. The minute I heard he was gone, I knew something was wrong. Rene said they'd found the car on the Gila River. At first I thought he meant they'd found it in the river."

Panic-stricken, Rene Cruz and Araceli Brigado show up at Graham Central during Ferschke's shift. Ferschke urges them to file a missing-persons report with the Mesa Police Department, since Gabe resides in that city.

Rene calls Mesa police at 11 p.m., and is told that his cousin's disappearance would be checked out.

From Rene, Ferschke gets the phone number of the company that had towed Gabe's car hours earlier and calls it after Graham Central closes at 2 a.m. But an employee won't tell him exactly where on the reservation the car had been picked up.

Next, Ferschke phones the Gila River police and informs an officer that he and his co-workers are strongly considering coming out to the reservation at that moment -- about 2:30 a.m. -- to search for their missing friend.

"I get told how dangerous it is for us to come out on the reservation," Ferschke says now. "Then [the reservation cop] says it doesn't look good for my friend, which really hits me hard. He asks us to give them time to do their job before we go out there. So we disband for the night."

Araceli Brigado calls Ferschke the next morning and says she'd just checked on a Wells Fargo Visa credit card of hers that Gabe had with him when he vanished.

Bank authorities tell her that someone already had used the card several times since Gabe's disappearance. Because her English is shaky, Araceli authorizes Ferschke to call the bank back to cancel the card, which he does.

During that call, Ferschke learns specifically that someone had used the card on March 3 at a Shell gas station on West Pecos Road, and at an ATM somewhere in Laveen.

He suspects the station might be on the reservation, and calls the Gila River police with the new information. A dispatcher reveals to him that tribal police had located Gabe's Cavalier at a residence in a nearby housing project.

Early that Saturday afternoon, March 5, Ferschke drives out to the Shell station with three other people to post missing-person fliers and to start poking around.

At the same time, Jack Ballentine is meeting with a distraught Latino man at the Phoenix police station. The man has heard media reports about the unidentified murder victim, and fears it might be his son.

He says his boy has been missing since March 3, when Gabe Cruz disappeared. He shows the detective a snapshot of his son, and the resemblance to the victim is obvious.

In turn, Ballentine shows the man a photo taken of the victim's face during the autopsy conducted the previous day. The father almost falls out of his chair in anguish. It's him, he says, pointing to the dead man's chipped front tooth and slightly droopy eye.

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3 comments
scogostology_worldol
scogostology_worldol

This is among the top 10 most despicable murder stories I have ever read about!

sandrajeanharvey
sandrajeanharvey

Sam & Richard are my family they are hurting well in prison. I still love them and feel for them. they had a very hard life growing up, no excuse for what they did. please pray for them they are human. as the years go by, I hope they know that god does for give.

sandrajeanharvey
sandrajeanharvey

Sam & Richard are my family they are hurting well in prison. I still love them and feel for them. they had a very hard life growing up, no excuse for what they did. please pray for them they are human. as the years go by, I hope they know that god does for give.

 
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