On June 28, 1994, 43-year-old Robert Rocha got in his 1985 Ford pickup and headed out to a shady area near the Rio Grande River south of Las Cruces. He was looking for a nice spot to have a party for his niece, who was getting ready to go to college. Just as the sun was about to go down, Rocha’s nude body was found shot to death next to his truck.
Twenty years later, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office is still hoping that someone who knows something about the murder will come forward.
According to investigators with the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit, a woman in her 20s who went to the river to target practice with a group of friends made the discovery. The vehicle she was in had become stuck in the soft sand and she left the group to hike up the hill about half a mile to look for help.
The homeowners in the area who agreed to help the woman drove her back to the area where the vehicle was stuck. On their way, the group made the gruesome discovery of Rocha’s body. He was nude, covered in blood and lying on his back. Autopsy reports would later indicate he had only been dead for about an hour.
Over the last 20 years, investigators have logged over 200 interviews with people who might have had a connection to Rocha or knew someone who might have had a motive to kill him. In that time, investigators say they haven’t found the missing pieces of the story that would lead them to a suspect or other persons of interest.
“Someone knows something,” said Becky Garibay, Rocha’s sister and vocal advocate over the past two decades. “My father died not knowing what happened to his son. My mother needs closure – we all need closure. All we ask is that if you know something, please call.”
Las Cruces Crime Stoppers, a local non-profit that historically has offered cash rewards for information that lead to the arrest of suspects wanted in criminal investigations, has offered to pay for several digital billboards that feature Rocha’s case. The publicity is part of a new effort on behalf of Crime Stoppers to bring exposure to cold cases that otherwise might go unnoticed.
“The key to generating tips is to keep this information in the public eye,” said Jake Miles, board president for Las Cruces Crime Stoppers. “If this message helps to jog someone’s memory, then hopefully investigators can follow up, move forward and ultimately help to bring closure for this family.”
In the future, the digital boards will also feature other cold cases being handled by the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office and the Las Cruces Police Department.
Anyone with information on who killed Robert Rocha is asked to call Las Cruces Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). You can also send a tip via text message to CRIMES (274637) using the keyword LCTIPS.
Information can be made anonymous and you do not have to give your name to collect a reward.
Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Communication Specialist Kelly Jameson at (575) 386-4302.