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N.M. man accused of imprisoning, abusing 71-year-old man

Matthew Ruiz was a live-in caregiver for 6 months before arrest
Matthew Ruiz, 42, of La Plata is accused of imprisoning and abusing 71-year-old man.

A La Plata man was arrested June 13 for the alleged elder abuse of a 71-year-old San Juan County man.

Matthew Ruiz, 42, was charged with a fourth-degree felony abuse of a resident, a fourth-degree felony false imprisonment and a misdemeanor interference with communications.

The charges are in connection to incidents that happened between June 1, 2023, and January 2024 when Ruiz was hired to be the live-in caregiver of Ray Barnes, who lives on County Road 4903, according to the affidavit for arrest warrant.

Barnes, who “is elderly and is unable to walk on his own,” told San Juan County Sheriff’s detectives that he was introduced to Ruiz through another caregiver, whom he identified as Tonya Shelby, the affidavit states.

Barnes needed assistance from the caregiver with “going to the bathroom and cleaning himself.” He explained to investigators that “he wore (adult diapers) because he cannot get to the bathroom,” adding that Ruiz would leave him in soiled diapers “for weeks at a time,” the affidavit states.

Ruiz reportedly “would refuse to clean” Barnes, leaving him locked in a bedroom and allegedly “would utilize a garden hose from outside the residence and ‘hose’ Barnes down and leave him soaked and cold in his bedroom,” the affidavit states.

Investigators stated in the report that they found “possible water damage in the master bedroom” where this reportedly happened, thus “confirming” Barnes’ statements.

Barnes also told investigators that Ruiz reportedly “punched him in the face with a fist,” when the two had a disagreement, and he reportedly “threw a fan” at Barnes, causing an injury to the elderly man’s wrist, which investigators stated they “were able to observe” and the injury had scabbed over, the affidavit states.

Barnes alleged Ruiz had “thrown” him out of his wheelchair, causing the man to hit his “lower back,” according to the affidavit.

In addition to the alleged physical abuse, Barnes told investigators that Ruiz not only locked the door to his bedroom from the outside, but also “blocked his bedroom doorway with a table,” and reportedly “screwed the table leg into the wall,” so that Barnes “was unable to move the table,” the affidavit states.

Investigators stated in the affidavit that they located “screw holes and scratches on the wall consistent with something being (screwed) into the wall,” and that the markings were on both sides of the doorway.

Barnes hired a new caregiver in May, and the new caregiver along with Shelby reportedly confirmed to investigators that they knew the alleged “lack of care, imprisonment, physical and emotional abuse,” suffered by Barnes at the hands of Ruiz.

Farmington Police and San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies served a warrant on Ruiz at 1:21 p.m. June 16 at Tomo Steakhouse, where the man was seated at a Hibachi table having lunch.

When arrested, police reportedly located and seized 2.5 grams of meth in a baggie in Ruiz’s front shirt pocket. He additionally was charged with a fourth-degree felony possession of a controlled substance.

Ruiz is being held in the San Juan County Detention Center without bond or conditions of release until his preliminary hearings, which will be on June 26 in Farmington for the drug charge and on June 27 in Aztec on the abuse charges.