ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Albuquerque police released six photos on Thursday of unidentified women who may also be linked to the West Mesa murders.
Once receiving them, detectives started investigating how the photos might be linked to the infamous 2009 discovery of 11 women's skeletal remains found buried in the desert in southwest Albuquerque.
"We need the public's help," Police Chief Ray Schultz said. "These women could be fine, they could need help or they could be victims. Right now we just don't know."
In 2009, Albuquerque police uncovered 11 women who were buried in the West Mesa just off of 118th Street. The bodies were found after Christine Ross and her dog Ruca left their home on Albuquerque's west side to go for a walk. Ruca found a bone protruding from the earthen trail.
Ross called the police, and they discovered the bone was human. During the following weeks, detectives uncovered the skeletal remains of 11 women and one unborn child, all buried in makeshift graves.
Forensic investigators have identified all 11 victims. Ten of the victims; Monica Candelaria, Victoria Chavez, Virginia Cloven, Syllannia Edwards, Cinnamon Elks, Doreen Marquez, Julie Nieto, Veronica Romero, Evelyn Salazar, and Michelle Valdez all have a common link. They have ties to both drugs and prostitution. The 11th victim, Jamie Barela, has no known involvement in those allegations.
Now police believe these new women may have run in the same circles, and fear they have fallen victim as well, but of what, and at whose hands? Police said they don't know.
"As you look as these pictures there are some physical characteristics that are similar to many of the victims from west mesa. All appear to be younger Hispanic women and match about the same physical size and profile as the women who have been identified from the west mesa," Schultz said.
The Chief is especially concerned about four women in the photos who appear to not be awake.
"It appears that some of the women may be unconscious, again we don't know what that reason is at this point in time if they were just sleeping or something else had occurred to them," he said.
So just where did the pictures come from? The Chief wouldn't say. He did go back and forth on whether police seized the photos from someone or if they were turned over voluntarily. At one point answering, "Yes" when asked which one of the ways was right.
The Chief said
Police searched photographer Ron Erwin's home and business in Joplin, Missouri in August, seizing tens of thousands of pictures from the man who used to travel to Albuquerque for the state fair.
He hasn't been named as a suspect or even as a person of interest.
News 13 has learned that police returned two cameras they seized to Ewrin last week. Police did keep one of the camera's straps. Sources said police still have numerous photographs, a laptop, and another camera that they took from that August search.
APD is asking anyone who has information on the identities or whereabouts of the women to call 1-877-765-8273.
Investigators have never named any suspects. Sources have told News 13 that one man who was shot to death in a confrontation with an alleged pimp as he emerged from his mobile home with the body of a suspected prostitute, is on the list, but police will not officially name him.
A District Court judge has ordered city leaders respond to a petition filed by an animal activist on the city's trap-neuter-return approach of managing feral cats.
Police responded to dozens of weather-related crashes in only a matter of hours Sunday.
A small plane crashed at about 8 a.m. Sunday morning on the Canyon Rim Trail near N.M. 502 and the entrance of Los Alamos.
Sunday night in Albuquerque and around the world people gathered for candlelight vigils to remember the loss of their children.
Department of Agriculture officials are warning customers to not get burned when buying firewood.
Church groups, parents and teachers met Sunday at the 20th annual Albuquerque Interfaith Convention. State education reform was their central focus.