CRIME

Man faces murder charge after Farmington woman found dead in December 2021

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A 51-year-old man has been charged with second-degree felony count of murder in connection with the death of a Farmington woman.

Thomas Howard was charged this week for the death in December 2021 of Roberta Baier, 59, according to a news release from the Farmington Police Department.

Court records show that the criminal complaint, arrest warrant affidavit, and arrest warrant were filed on March 30 in Farmington Magistrate Court.

Howard is in custody at Cook County Jail in Chicago after he was arrested in February on an unrelated warrant, according to the news release.

The release states that he is awaiting extradition back to New Mexico.

Information about the homicide is in the arrest warrant affidavit.

Farmington police responded on Dec. 6, 2021 to an apartment on the 2800 block of East 22nd Street to conduct a welfare check on Baier, after friends reported they had not seen or heard from her since Nov. 30, 2021.

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Officers made several attempts to contact Baier by knocking on the front door.

When there was no response, they reached out to the property manager to open the residence, where they found her deceased in her bedroom.

An officer saw injuries to her face, including a laceration above her left brow, bruising on her face and dried blood in her hair.

There was also blood spatter on the bedroom walls and blood on the bed.

Her body was sent to the Office of Medical Investigator in Albuquerque to determine the cause of death.

Officers learned that Howard had recently been living with Baier, but he was not present at the time her body was discovered and his whereabouts were unknown.

Howard was described as Baier's boyfriend in the news release from the police department.

The arrest warrant affidavit states that detectives learned Howard had been seen inside Baier's apartment the evening of Dec. 1, 2021.

Detectives also learned that Howard checked into a motel in Farmington on the morning of Dec. 2, 2021 then took a cab ride that afternoon to Durango, Colorado.

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Financial statements obtained by detectives in January revealed that Howard was in the Chicago area.

He was arrested on an unrelated warrant on Feb. 5 in Cicero, Illinois by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Berwyn Police Department.

Howard was booked into Cook County Jail in Chicago on Feb. 7 and remains in custody there. Online jail records show that he has a court date for May 2.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Farmington detectives interviewed Howard in jail in late February.

The court document states that he responded to detectives' questions and talked about his relationship with Baier and his actions toward her on Dec. 1, 2021.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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