It’s now been ten years since the bodies of 11 women were found buried on the West Mesa of Albuquerque. To this day, the case remains unsolved.
On February 2, 2009, a woman walking her dog along the West Mesa came across what appeared to be a human femur bone, which lead to the recurring discovery of multiple shallow graves in the area, eventually making Albuquerque home to one of the largest unsolved serial killing cases in the country.
An Albuquerque Police Department investigation found a pattern that tied the women together.
APD said that all the victims worked as prostitutes prior to their disappearances, which apparently occurred between 2003 and 2005. Most of the women were Hispanic and one of them was four months pregnant. Some of the women had been reported missing six years prior to the discovery of their bodies.
Due to lack of flesh on the remains, the cause of death was difficult for the Office of Medical Investigators to determine.
APD detective Ida Lopez, began gathering a list of missing women in 2005. Monica Candelaria was the first reported missing in 2003.
Ten of the women were reported missing in Albuquerque. Syllania Edwards was not reported missing in Albuquerque but was found buried amongst the women; she was last seen in Colorado.
The Potential Suspects
To this day, the APD has still not named a perpetrator. Throughout the investigation, APD released the names of two potential suspects, Joseph Blea and Lorenzo Montoya. Blea is serving time in prison for unrelated crimes and Montoya was killed in 2006 when attempting to move the body of a women he was suspected of murdering.
“There are misconceptions that there are only one or two suspects,” said APD public information officer Gilbert Gallegos, “They want to emphasize that there are more suspects out there that they want to consider.”
While other potential suspects have not been named, Gallegos said that detectives are continually looking and checking into all leads and potential suspects. There has still been no solid hits.
The Case Today
“One of the misconceptions is that it is a cold case, but it is actually considered an active case,” Gallegos said. “There is a task force of detectives assigned to this case. They work about 40 hours a week.”
Jeff Proctor, a criminal justice reporter with New Mexico in Depth, heavily reported on the murders throughout the years.
“I’m not surprised that there has been no closure,” Proctor said. “These are difficult cases to solve when they are 48 hours old, even more so when the bodies being discovered were murdered five years prior.”
APD has gone through several leadership changes throughout this case. The current APD Chief, Michael Geier, was one of the original detectives on case when it first broke.
With Geier as APDs new police chief, there is hope from the public that his time working on the case will inspire his passion for putting more time into the case.
“I’m pretty confident that at this point with the new leadership in the police department there seems to be renewed interest and renewed dedication to the case again,” Proctor said.
As the case has remained opened, APD has also invested in new technology to make their findings easier to store and find.
“They have digitized all the records in the case, to a pretty impressive database,” Gallegos said. “Whenever they get new tips they can plug the evidence into the database and it immediately tells them if they have already looked at this person or heard from this person or what came up in the past when someone looked at a similar tip.”
Gallegos also spoke of the improved ground penetrating radar, that is helping the police department keep an eye out for similar connections to the case.
As time has passed, Gallegos said that detectives remain encouraged by the public’s interest in the case and encourage the public to provide any new information they may have.
If you have information about the West Mesa murders, please contact APD at 1-877-765-8273 or (505) 768-2450.
Vanessa Martinez can be contacted on Twitter @vanessarmartin