West Mesa murders

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West Mesa murders
Location Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
Date 2001–2005 (Discovered February 2, 2009)
Target Sex Workers
Attack type
Serial killing
Deaths 12

The West Mesa Murders refer to the remains of 11 women found buried in 2009 in the desert on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States. No suspects have been arrested and a serial killer is believed to be responsible.

Background[edit]

Between 2001 and 2005, 11 women were buried by an unknown assailant in an arroyo bank on Albuquerque's West Mesa, in an undeveloped area within city limits. Satellite imagery between taken 2003 and 2005 show tire marks and patches of disturbed soils in the area where the remains were recovered. By 2006, development had encroached on the area, and soon after, the site was disturbed, buried, and platted for residential development.

Due to the 2008 Housing Bubble collapse, development on the west side halted before housing could be built at the burial site. After neighbors complained of flooding at the platted site (due to the burial of the natural arroyo), the developer built a retaining wall to channel storm water to a detention pond built in the approximate area of the burial site, inadvertently exposing bones to the surface.[1]

Discovery[edit]

On February 2, 2009, a woman walking a dog found a human bone on the West Mesa, and reported it to police. As a result of the subsequent police investigation, authorities discovered the remains of 11 women and girls [2] and a fetus buried in the area. They were between 15 and 32 years of age, most were Hispanic, and most were involved with drugs and sex work.[3]

Victims[edit]

The remains discovered in 2009 were identified as those of the following women, all of whom disappeared between 2001 and 2005:[4][5] According to satellite photos the last victim was buried in 2005.

  • Jamie Barela, 15
  • Monica Candelaria, 22
  • Victoria Chavez, 26
  • Virginia Cloven, 24
  • Syllania Edwards, 15
  • Cinnamon Elks, 32
  • Doreen Marquez, 24
  • Julie Nieto, 24
  • Veronica Romero, 28
  • Evelyn Salazar, 27
  • Michelle Valdez, 22

Syllania Edwards, a 15-year-old runaway from Lawton, Oklahoma, was the only African American, and the only victim from out-of-state.[6] Michelle Valdez was four months pregnant at the time of her death.[7]

On December 9, 2010, Albuquerque police released six photos of seven unidentified women who may also be linked to West Mesa.[3][8] Some of the women appear to be unconscious, and many share the same physical characteristics as the original 11 victims.[3] The following day the police released an additional photograph of another woman; this woman was subsequently identified by family members, who reported that she had died of natural causes several years ago.[9][10] On December 13, 2010, police reported that two of the women in the photos had been identified as alive, and could have valuable information if they can be located.[11] Police would not say how or where they had obtained the photos.[3]

Suspects[edit]

West Mesa Bone Collector
Criminal penalty Never sentenced
Killings
Victims 11+
Span of killings
2001–2005
Country United States
State(s) New Mexico
Date apprehended
Unapprehended

Police suspect that the bodies were all buried by the same person or persons, and may be the work of a serial killer, who has since come to be referred to as the West Mesa Bone Collector.[12][13] Authorities also believe that the murders are closely linked to the annual state fair, which attracts large numbers of sex workers to the area in the fall.[14]

Two men who initially attracted police attention in connection with the murders were Fred Reynolds and Lorenzo Montoya. Reynolds was a pimp who knew one of the missing women and reportedly had photos of missing sex workers; he died of natural causes in January 2009.[15] Lorenzo Montoya lived less than three miles from the burial site. In 2006 there were reportedly tire tracks leading from his trailer to the site.[13] In December 2006, Montoya strangled a teenager at his trailer and then was shot to death by the teen's boyfriend.[13][16]

In August 2010, police searched several properties in Joplin, Missouri associated with a local photographer and businessman in connection with the West Mesa cases.[3] They confiscated "tens of thousands" of photos from the man, who reportedly used to visit the state fair in Albuquerque.[3]

In December 2010, convicted Colorado serial killer Scott Lee Kimball stated that he was being investigated for the West Mesa murders, but has denied killing the women.[17]

No official suspects have ever been named in connection with the murders.[3] A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.[5]

Another suspect police are considering is Joseph Blea. Blea has been dubbed the "Mid-School Rapist" for his activities in the 1980s; police say he would often break into the homes of 13-15 year old girls who lived near McKinley Middle School in Albuquerque and rape them. In one case, there was a DNA sample but the rape test kit wasn't re-run until 2010, eventually linking Blea to the rape.[18] Blea is also suspected by police of killing a sex worker; his DNA sample was located on the inner waistband and belt of a sex worker found dead on Central Ave (a notorious street for sex work in the eastern part of the city). In addition, a tree tag from a nursery was found in the area where the West Mesa victims' bodies were buried; it was tracked to a nursery Blea once frequented.[19][20] Blea, in the Mid-School rape case, was sentenced to 36 years in June 2015, at 58 years of age.

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.abqjournal.com/715705/west-mesa-murders-seven-years-later.html
  2. ^ AMW | Fugitives | West Mesa Bone Collector | Case
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Women's photos may link to mesa murders". Krqe.com. Archived from the original on December 28, 2013. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  4. ^ [1], Aolnews.com. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  5. ^ a b "West Mesa Serial Killer--$100,000 Reward". Albuquerque Police Department. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  6. ^ "Lawton girl was only teen in mass grave" Swoknews.com. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  7. ^ "Victim's families glad APD has leads" Krqe.com. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  8. ^ "Albuquerque police release photos in West Mesa murders investigation (warning: content may be disturbing for some people)" joplinglobe.com. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
  9. ^ "APD receives tips on pics". Krqe.com. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  10. ^ 'Police: Woman in photo passed away". Krqe.com. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  11. ^ "Police identify 2 women from photos, both alive" Kob.com. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  12. ^ "‘Dateline’ To Air Story on West Mesa Deaths", Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  13. ^ a b c "West Mesa Bone Collector – Albuquerque NM". University of Tampa Criminology Blog. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  14. ^ "Fair prostitutes help West Mesa murders" Krqe.com. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  15. ^ "Police Pursue Possible Leads In West Mesa Cases". Koat.com. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  16. ^ "The Homicides of 2006" Abqtrib.com. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  17. ^ "Colorado killer quizzed in mesa murders" Krqe.com. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  18. ^ "DNA linked to Mid-School rapist". KRQE.com. Retrieved 2015-01-24. 
  19. ^ "Does APD have a suspect in the West Mesa Murders?". KRQE.com. Retrieved 2015-01-24. 
  20. ^ "Accused serial rapist, West Mesa murder suspect sentenced to 36 years in rape case". KRQE.com. Retrieved 2015-01-24. 

External links[edit]

  • City of Albuquerque official webpage pertaining to the West Mesa Homicide Investigation