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Couple charged in deaths

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Boarders succumbed to carbon monoxide in shed

By Martin Salazar

Five months after two boarding home residents died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a backyard shed where they were being housed, the couple caring for them is facing criminal charges.

Denise A. Encinias, 41, and Jose Encinias,, 47, who reside on the 3500 block of Ning Road, north of Las Vegas, have each been charged with two counts of neglect of a resident resulting in death, second-degree felonies. Jose Encinias is also facing a misdemeanor count of installing an LP gas heater without a license and not having that installation inspected or certified.

State police Agent Mark Alsfeld filed the charges in San Miguel County Magistrate Court on Friday. The husband and wife are being held at the San Miguel County Detention Center. Each of their bonds has been set at $20,000 cash.

Cochise Bayhan, 56, and Alex Montoya, 61, died inside the shed in the early morning hours of Oct. 24. The men were former New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute patients. Montoya suffered from schizophrenia and had been admitted to the institute 19 times. Bayhan had been admitted to the institute six times. He was suffering from a schizoaffective disorder with bipolar type, court documents state.

They were released from the Behavioral Health Institute on Oct. 9 and moved into the Encinias family’s boarding home that same day. Arrest warrant affidavits filed in the case reveal that Montoya was paying $500 a month for rent while Bayhan was paying $600 a month.

Days after the men died, Denise Encinias told the Optic that she took the men in because she wanted to help them and because she wanted to get ahead in life.

“I didn’t bring them to hurt them; I brought them to take care of them,” she said during an interview at her home. “I’m a good person. The people that know me know who we are. Get to know us before you judge us.”
 
Pair lacked business license
The police affidavits state that Denise and Jose Encinias failed to obtain a business license from San Miguel County for their boarding home. San Miguel County Planning and Zoning supervisor Alex Tafoya told state police that any business, including boarding homes, must be licensed. Under the county’s ordinance, businesses operating in San Miguel County are subject to inspection to ensure that all state and county laws are being adhered to.

Police note that the rent-to-own agreement Denise Encinias signed for the Weather King shed on Sept. 20, 2013, contained a disclaimer in bold, upper-case letters that the shed was “not designed or suitable for human occupancy or habitation.”

Nevertheless, Denise and Jose Encinias set up the shed in their backyard and went to work on turning it into an “apartment.”

The shed was powered with extension cords that were run from the single-wide mobile home where the Encinias family lived. Police say the shed was heated with two small heaters, one electric, the other propane-fed.

Sheets of plastic were hung inside the shed, covering its windows and ceiling.

Jose Encinias installed the propane heater and hung the plastic because the electric heater became insufficient as the weather grew increasingly cold, the affidavits state. That work was done about three days before Montoya and Bayhan died. Jose Encinias got the propane heater from a friend.

Police say he did not have a license to install or work on LP gas appliances, and he did not have his work inspected.

“Four inspectors from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, Construction Industries Department inspected the shed after the deaths,” the police affidavits state. “They identified 27 different construction code violations including 11 general construction code violations and 11 LP gas code violations.”

“Do everything for them”
Denise Encinias told police she last saw Montoya and Bayhan alive at about 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 when she gave the men their medications, made their beds and told them to put on pajamas.

“You have to do everything for them,” she told police. “It’s not landlord tenant. You have to feed them, give them their meds, make sure they shower, clean their house. I do everything. Take them for appointments. Help them with SSI (Supplemental Security Income).”

Jose Encinias last saw the men alive at about 10 p.m. They were in the shed watching television. At about 2 a.m. on Oct. 24, he got up to use the restroom and saw a light on inside the shed. He went to check on Montoya and Bayhan and found them dead sitting on a couch.

Autopsies determined that Montoya’s carbon monoxide level was 72 percent while Bayhan’s was 69 percent. Chief Medical Investigator Ross Zumwalt told state police that any concentration over 50 percent is considered fatal.
 
Many boarding homes unlicensed
The deaths have advocates for the mentally ill calling for reforms in how the state regulates boarding homes for the mentally ill.

Shela Silverman, director of Mental Health Association of New Mexico, told the Optic in October that all boarding homes for the mentally ill should be licensed and regulated to ensure that they provide a minimum quality of care for the individuals they’re taking in.

Under current state law, residential care facilities proving “health care services” are licensed and regulated. But many boarding homes, like the one operated by the Encinias family, are not licensed or regulated by the state or federal government.