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Investigators take Ignacio man into custody in connection with homicide of Indigenous woman

Raeanna "Nikki" Burch-Woodhull
Posted at 11:10 AM, Dec 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-06 13:07:40-05

IGNACIO, Colo. — A man from La Plata County is being held on suspicion of second-degree murder in connection with the homicide of a 28-year-old Indigenous woman from Ignacio.

The body of Raeanna "Nikki" Burch-Woodhull was found around Colorado State Highway 550 and County Road 310, which is south of Durango, on Saturday. The La Plata County Coroner made a preliminary identification and her family was notified, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Luis Raul Valenzuela, 34, of Ignacio, was identified as the suspect and was taken into custody that same day. He was brought to the La Plata County Jail. Burch-Woodhull's family told Denver7 that Valenzuela was her husband and there's a history of domestic violence.

Investigators take Ignacio man into custody in connection with homicide of Indigenous woman

No other details were available this early in the investigation.

The CBI is working alongside the Ignacio Police Department, the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, La Plata County Coroner's Office, and the newly formed Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office of the Department of Public Safety. Arron Julian, the director for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office, said this was the first case the office was activated on.

READ MORE: Colorado hires first director for new Office of Liaison for Missing or Murdered Indigenous Relatives

CBI issued a Missing Endangered Alert for Burch-Woodhull.

The new Missing Indigenous Person Alert will take effect at the end of December.

Valenzuela has a first appearance set for Monday, according to CBI.

The La Plata County Coroner will conduct Burch-Woodhull's autopsy.

Burch-Woodhull's older sister, Felicia Munguia, and aunt, Oolcu Buckskin, called Burch-Woodhull outgoing and outspoken.

“She was a petite girl, but she was just so strong," they told Denver7. "And she spoke her mind. And she didn't care. She wouldn't back down.”

She was loyal to her family and would be there to help any time of the day, they said.

“She adored her babies," Burch-Woodhull's family said. "And that's why her sister knew something was wrong, because she wouldn't ever leave her kids for that long without contacting anybody.”

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