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N.M. Sheriff's Office Mourns Deputy's Death in Domestic Violence Call, Investigation Continues

The Associated Press

CLOUDCROFT, N.M. (AP) - State police are combing over evidence and conducting interviews in the case of a domestic violence call that resulted in the deaths of three people, including a pregnant woman and an Otero County sheriff's deputy.

For the sheriff's office, the death of deputy Robert Hedman has been devastating. He was the first Otero County officer to be slain in the line of duty in over a century, said Sheriff John Blansett.

"We're taking it real hard," the sheriff said Sunday. "(Hedman) was just one of those guys who loved his job and didn't care about his lousy pay. He felt he had a job to do and that's what he did."

Hedman and another deputy, Billy Anders, were called to a domestic dispute at a home about 10 miles east of this southern New Mexico community Saturday evening. Neighbors reported hearing shots fired.

When the deputies arrived, they questioned Earl Flippen, who appeared to be nervous. The deputies noticed blood on the floor and saw a vehicle backed up to the front of the house with the hatchback open.

When Flippen refused to allow them inside, Anders went to the patrol vehicle to call for help and Hedman went to the back of the home, said state police Lt. Jimmy Glascock.

Anders then heard a gunshot. He encountered Flippen near the front and the two exchanged gunfire, during which Flippen was killed, Glascock said.

Hedman was found behind the house. He had been shot in the head.

Following the gunfire outside, a Cloudcroft police officer searched the house and found the body of Deborah Rhoudes in a closet. The pregnant woman suffered a single gunshot wound.

Authorities also found Rhoudes' 3-year-old daughter in the house. They hope to talk to the girl about the incident.

The girl was staying with relatives in southern New Mexico on Sunday after being treated at a hospital for minor injuries she received Saturday.

Police believe Flippen fatally shot Rhoudes during a fight before the deputies arrived, Glascock said.

Flippen, 38, and Rhoudes, 30, had been renting the house for a few months, Glascock said. State police were investigating whether there were previous incidents of domestic violence between the couple.

Investigators started processing evidence Sunday, but Glascock pointed out that the investigation was only in the preliminary stages.

"We continue to process and gather information from evidence and conduct interviews to determine as much as possible about exactly what occurred," he said.

Hedman, 53, had worked at the sheriff's office for more than two years and was a veteran of several southern New Mexico law enforcement agencies, including the Alamogordo Department of Public Safety and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

Hedman was a father of two, and his wife runs a restaurant in nearby Alamorosa. On days off, Hedman worked at the restaurant or worked rebuilding tractors.

"He was a good guy, very dedicated," Blansett said. "He'd take the shirt off his back for you, anything you needed."

"It's just a tragedy," Otero County Commissioner Mike Nivison said. "It's something that, hopefully, will pull us all together."

God Bless Deputy Hedman and his family.
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