12/13/2007

Off-duty N.M. state officer murdered by son

The Associated Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — An off-duty state police officer was shot and killed in Las Cruces early Thursday. Las Cruces police arrested the woman's son and charged him with an open count of murder.

Authorities didn't immediately release additional details in the death of Officer Susan Kuchma, 43, saying the investigation was continuing.

Las Cruces police identified the gunman as Justin Quintana, 25.

Investigators said Kuchma, a five-year state police veteran, was shot once and died at the scene about 2:30 a.m. Officers found a handgun at the scene, Las Cruces police spokesman Dan Trujillo said.

Kuchma was married to another state police officer, patrolman Patrick Kuchma, state police spokesman Lt. Rick Anglada said. The Kuchmas are stationed in the state police's District 4, which has headquarters in Las Cruces.

Students walked around yellow crime scene tape in the cordoned-off area Thursday morning. Residents described the neighborhood as made up largely of young families.

District Attorney Susana Martinez, who had worked with Susan Kuchma on various drunken driving cases, said the officer handled herself with professionalism.

"She wasn't pushy, or bossy,'' Martinez said. "She was none of those things. She was really a good people person. She underwent her job the way she was supposed to.''

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