Murder Victim’s Mom|Seeks Help From GEICO

     RIO ARRIBA, N.M. (CN) – The mother of a man who was kidnapped and murdered in his own pickup truck sued GEICO for uninsured motorist benefits, because the kidnappers didn’t have auto insurance.
     Steven Duran was abducted by Toby Gonzales and Rudy Salazar on Feb. 8, 2010. They drove him to a remote area in his own pickup, then beat and strangled him to death and burned his body in the truck. He was 26.
     In her July 6 lawsuit in Rio Arriba County Court, his mother Mary Ann Duran sued the two men and GEICO, which rejected her underinsured/uninsured motorist claim.
     The murder case was settled in court after years of trials, appeals and bizarre twists. After being arrested, Salazar agreed to testify against Gonzales, but changed his mind during trial.
     At one point, Gonzales was mistakenly released from jail and was at large for three days.
     Salazar was convicted of second-degree murder in 2011 and sentenced to 25 years in state prison.
     Gonzales was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping and tampering with evidence, but the jury hung on a second-degree murder charge. A Rio Arriba County judge sentenced him to 33 years in prison.
     Those convictions were appealed on claims of inadmissible evidence, and Gonzales pleaded guilty to accessory to murder, cutting a deal so that it would not involve more prison time.
     Trial testimony indicated that the three men had been drinking and using cocaine when they fought. Duran’s body was found in his burned pickup truck in an arroyo three days after he was murdered.
     His mother seeks insurance benefits from GEICO, and punitive damages for bad faith and breach of contract, and benefits for wrongful death from the murderers.
     She is represented by David Idinopoulos, with Elias Law, of Albuquerque.
     None of the parties could be reached for comment after business hours Tuesday.

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