Suspect arrested in homicide

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

Police believe an argument after a night of drinking led a 24-year-old Roswell man to beat a 51-year-old truck driver to death and dump his body in a ditch east of Clovis.

Brandon Barela was arrested Friday afternoon in Roswell and is charged with an open count of murder.

His bond is set at $500,000 and he is jailed in Roswell, Undersheriff Wesley Waller said

In other developments Friday, Waller said the victim was positively identified as Ronnie Hittson by medical investigators.

Hittson met Barela and a group of people he was with at a Clovis bar and began drinking and socializing in the hours before the homicide, Waller said.

Hittson, Barela and some of the others he was with drove to a second bar, where they drank more.

Waller said after the group left the second bar, “A dispute between (Hittson and Barela) developed, resulting in Mr. Hittson’s death.”

Investigators believe Hittson was bludgeoned at the location where his body was found by a passing truck driver around 7 a.m. Thursday morning.

The truck driver called 911 to report a male lying on the shoulder of the road at the intersection of Sugarbeet Road and State Road 523, police records show.

Waller said investigators also believe there were other individuals present at the time of the beating and more arrests are possible in the case.

“There were witnesses to the beating and we’re still conducting interviews,” he said. “There could be additional arrests to follow.”

Waller said a “weapon of opportunity” was used, but said police are withholding the description of that weapon, citing the ongoing investigation.

Crediting the quick arrest to good investigative work, Waller said the pieces of the puzzle came together as investigators canvassed local businesses.

“The investigators that worked on this case did a great job. They were relentless and were quickly able to determine the sequence of events leading up to the murder,” he said.

Waller said Barela was being transported to Curry County Friday afternoon.