By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
PORTALES — Portales residents expressed shock and grief on Tuesday after police identified the body of a woman found on Friday, buried in a Portales back yard.
Amber Robinson, 20, a former student at Broad Horizons in Portales, made a lasting impression on friends, who described her as a joy to be around.
“She was funny, she was real cool and down-to-earth,” said 17-year-old Breanna Gonzales, a former classmate of Robinson’s at Broad Horizons. “She was like her own person. We were very close.”
Police found Robinson’s body when they searched the back yard of a home at 717 N. Ave. J after receiving information that Robinson had been seen in the vicinity.
Robinson was last seen April 26 when a friend left her at the home of two men whom the women had gone to visit, Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said.
The friend led police back to the house after Robinson’s mother reported her daughter missing several days later.
“Her mother continued coming in, saying this is not like her,” Berry said.
The two men of the home remained in custody Tuesday following their arrests Friday on unrelated misdemeanor warrants.
Police zeroed in on the house when they contacted the two men about Robinson’s whereabouts “and got a story from them that was a little bit inconsistent with what the friend had told us,” Berry said.
Investigators searched the house following Friday’s arrests and spotted upturned dirt about 30 feet from the back door. There, they unearthed Robinson’s fully clothed body, Berry said.
Berry said the victim was identified by fingerprints following an autopsy.
Police said they are investigating the death as a homicide. No charges related to the death had been filed on Tuesday, though District Attorney Brett Carter said officials have a suspect.
Police have not yet released the cause of death. If it’s ruled a homicide it would be the first in Portales since 1998.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Dennis Lopez, chairman of the Roosevelt County Commission. “With a rural community like this one and such a close-knit community you wouldn’t expect that, but now we just have to support the victim’s family. That’s all we can do. It’s pretty sad.”
A woman who answered the phone at the home of Robinson’s mother said the family did not want to comment.
Like Gonzales, 19-year-old Fabian Garcia attended school with Robinson at Broad Horizons. He said he was friends with Robinson all his life, and went cruising around town and on a few road trips with her to Las Vegas, N.M.
“She was a good person; she was really fun to hang out with,” Garcia said. “We used to have a lot of fun. She used to like the same things I did; she was just any normal kid.
“I’m still kind of in shock after everything that happened.”
Raymond Urioste, who said he’s a friend to Robinson’s family, said he last saw Robinson about three weeks ago at the Portales animal shelter where he works.
Urioste said Robinson came in with her mom to pick up a lost cat, and it was the last time he saw her.
“She was a quiet girl, never got into mischief,” Urioste said. “She was a good girl, she brought us all good.”
Portales News-Tribune Managing Editor Kevin Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.