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Dawn Sandoval Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

December 30, 2020
4 min read

Dawn Sandoval loved her job and her clients. She was also a dedicated mother to her children. When she went missing from her home in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, her sister, Anita, was quite obviously worried. She filed a missing person report. And Anita’s sister was found a few weeks later, but it was not a fortunate situation as Anita would have hoped for. Dawn was found dead by the police. The family, including Dawn’s children, were devastated and were expectant that Dawn would receive the justice she deserved. Investigation Discovery’s ‘The Murder Tapes’ aired an episode called ‘The Last Laugh’ which chronicled the shocking murder of Dawn Sandoval. Here is all we know about this case.

How Did Dawn Sandoval Die?

Dawn Sandoval, born on December 20, 1971, in Las Vegas, Nevada, was a Registered Nurse at Synergy Inc. for almost ten years. She was also a member of a dance team and played the flute in her spare time. She graduated from Highlands University with a degree in Nursing. Dawn was beloved by both her family and clients. Her sister Anita Sandoval and she were especially close. So when 46 years old Dawn went missing in April 2018, Anita felt restless. Dawn had disappeared from her husband and her residence, leaving her phone and keys behind. Anita finally reported her sister missing to the Rio Rancho Police Department on April 16, 2018, hoping to find Dawn’s whereabouts. The Rio Rancho Officers and detectives indulged in a search for Dawn promptly.

In a press release written by Lt. Nicholas Onken, dated May 7, 2018, the department stated that on Saturday, May 5, 2018, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department, New Mexico City Police, and Rio Rancho Police received a call reporting the probable discovery of human remains in a desolate portion of the Sandoval County. The officers responding to the call processed the crime scene and the body found was affirmed to be that of Dawn Sandoval. The body was found allegedly burnt. Due to decomposition, the exact cause of death could not be determined, as stated by the Office of the Medical Investigator. The death was, however, ruled as a homicide.

On November 15, 2018, Michael Encinias, Dawn Sandoval’s ex-husband was detained in Sandoval County Jail in connection to Dawn Sandoval’s death. According to Anita Sandoval, Michael and Dawn had been in a 19-year marriage but were divorced in February 2018. Anita also said that the couple had been making attempts at fixing their relationship just days before Dawn had gone missing. “It was kind of unbelievable. I kind of had to think, is this really happening?” Anita Sandoval commented on Michael Encinias’s arrest.

Who Killed Dawn Sandoval?

Dawn Sandoval’s ex-husband, Michael Encinias killed her. After the discovery of Dawn’s body, Encinias was arrested in November 2018 in connection with the death of his ex-wife. As stated in court documents, a grand jury indicted Encinias on charges of second-degree murdering and tampering of evidence. According to Anita Sandoval, the victim’s sister, Michael had been with Dawn for four or five days as the couple was trying to fix their marriage, a few months after their divorce. On November 21, 2018, Judge Eichwald ordered Michael to be kept in jail till his trial date. During this hearing, a Rio Rancho police detective mentioned that the couple’s twin children had overheard their parents arguing just the night before Sandoval had gone missing. Besides, Encinias had bruises on his face and neck when he was first interrogated by the police, pointing to possible signs of a struggle. Encinias claimed that his ex-wife had attacked him and that the wounds were from self-defense. The detectives, however, postulated that the wounds did not align with Michael’s defense.

According to a witness at the trial, Michael was given to violent behavior against his former wife and had physically abused her on certain occasions. Michael Encinias was sentenced to 18 years in prison in November 2019.

Read More: Where Is Michael Encinias Now?

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