Investigator keeps close to cases

Sandy Loomis came to Clovis by way of the Air Force and took a position with the Curry County Sheriff’s Office in 1993. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff

The white crest of his cowboy hat takes his already imposing height to new levels. Paired with his broad physique, he projects an impenetrable front. But the wide brim of his hat and the frame of his glasses shield deep eyes that hold a spark of tenderness.

Sheriff’s Investigator Sandy Loomis, who stands more than 6-foot-3, is in some ways an icon among local law enforcement. At crime scenes he stands out among his peers with his signature hat and towering height like a throwback to an old Western movie in the midst of modern uniforms and shiny shoes. But those who work with him will tell he stands out in other ways as well.

He has temerity, compassion and an internal drive that is unrivaled, they say.
His broad shoulders are appropriate because he carries his cases with him everywhere he goes, seeking justice for the victims, his colleagues tell.

“He’s very, very serious about what he does. He’s one of the best investigators in the state,” Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher said. “A lot of guys will get enough evidence until they get somebody arrested. (Sandy) works to get enough evidence to get somebody convicted.”

Serving with the relatively new Major Crimes Unit, an interagency team of area authorities, Loomis has been involved in several local homicide cases.

Lead investigator in the recently concluded murder case against James Smith, a 37-year-old dentist who accepted a plea agreement Dec. 12 of life in prison for the murder of 30-year-old Laura McNaughton, Loomis said the case was one of the hardest for him personally.

McNaughton’s nude body was discovered in a rural ditch Dec. 10, 2005, after she was abducted, beaten, sexually assaulted, then strangled.

“The one that’s affected me the most is that one. I take nothing away from Laura, I take nothing away from her family, but there are a whole lot of victims in that whole thing. I think about her children and I think about (Smith’s) children,” he said.

But he’s quick to point out all of his cases are equally important, from the smallest robbery to the most horrific homicide, and he tries to give each the same dedication.

“I believe that a career in law enforcement is not so much a job as it is a calling. That may sound a little trite, but I believe it. … It’s about doing what’s right and doing to the best of your ability,” the 34-year law enforcement veteran said.

His priorities are clear and inflexible, he said. “I’m dedicated to my religious beliefs, I’m dedicated to my family and I’m dedicated to my responsibilities.”

Sometimes cases get to him — he carries them too close to the breast, he admits.
On his desk is a photo of 9-year-old homicide victim Carlos Perez in his hospital deathbed before family made the decision to end life support.

“Noe Torres – it’s not my case but he’s a passion (for me). We need to get him captured. I have (Carlos’) picture right here to remind me that I’m looking for Noe,” he said, referring to a 27-year-old man indicted for first-degree murder in the case who has evaded arrest for more than a year since the shooting.

Perez was shot while sleeping in his bed Sept. 15, 2005. Four men, including Torres, are scheduled for a joint first-degree murder jury trial in March. A fifth defendant in the case reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and was sentenced as a juvenile in May.

Balancing the suffering of victims with responsibilities of his job isn’t always easy, but it has to happen to be effective, he believes.

“I agonize over some of my cases. They pretty much consume me. Maybe I’m a little overpassionate (but) for me (it’s not) something you can just turn off and walk away from. Sometimes you (do) have to back away, and I am very passionate about my family. That’s one of my places I can go and hug my grandchildren and know that everything’s going to be OK. And if I did not have my faith in God, I’d be just as lost as a goose in a snow storm,” he said.

“You can loose yourself pretty easy. The victims are what are important. … The way I see it, my job is to shine the light in that darkness, and then the judges and juries make the decision. As long as I live up to that, I’ve done my job.”

Raised in Capitan, Loomis, a self-described country boy, entered the Air Force in 1973, opting for a delayed enlistment so he could be assured a slot with the military police.

With his high school sweetheart by his side, the father of three traveled the globe for 20 years, building a family and gaining training and experience in his field.

Cannon was his final stop, he said, and Clovis became his new home in 1993. He applied for and accepted a position with the Curry County Sheriff’s Office.

“I went right out the gate (at Cannon) and just changed uniforms,” he told.

He had been offered a job with the city police but chose the Sheriff’s Office so he could reunite with his cowboy hat, he jokingly said.

A patrol deputy for years, catching drunk drivers was his passion. In one year, Loomis made approximately 100 DWI arrests, an unheard-of accomplishment for one officer, Hatcher said.

“He was emphatic about catching and convicting DWI offenders,” he said. Loomis perfected the process of building DWI cases to the point it was extremely rare for an acquittal to result when he was the arresting officer, he said.

That attention to detail and consistency have followed Loomis into his role as an investigator, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said.

“Deputy Loomis is very attached to his cases and wants to make sure that justice is served to everyone. He pours his heart and soul into his work, and it shows because his work product is immeasurable.”

Loomis is so meticulous about his investigations and following procedure, Chandler said, it is nice to receive his cases for prosecution in the courtroom.

Hatcher and Chandler agree on one other aspect of Loomis’ personality: his sense of humor.

“He’s our Taser instructor. He likes to shock everybody with the Taser. We’ve all been shocked,” Hatcher said with a chuckle, explaining Loomis’ propensity for jokes keeps his coworkers on their toes. “He’ll sneak up behind you and let (the Taser) spark a little bit,” he said.

Loomis’ injections of levity are often just what the doctor ordered during times of high pressure, Chandler said.

“Deputy Loomis is one to lighten the room, however that may be. He’s very refreshing to have on your team,” he said.

“The sky is the limit for Sandy with his investigative skills, and with his drive he could quite frankly do anything in law enforcement that he desires. He’s a gentlemen, he’s a friend and he’s one of our best police officers,” Chandler said.

Loomis said he doesn’t know what the future holds for him. At 52, he is still content in his current role but down the road he said a bid for sheriff is a “definite maybe.”
For now though his goals are simple.

“Just to stay healthy and keep on working to not lose sight of what’s important,” God, family and justice for victims.