ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – On the 13th anniversary of the discovery of the first remains tied to the West Mesa murders, police investigators and other city officials are making a plea to the public for new information that could help solve the case. Alongside case specialists and FBI officials, the Albuquerque Police chief and mayor held a news conference Wednesday morning about the the notorious cold case.
“The only way this case is going to get solved is with our community’s help or even communities around us that might know something,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Wednesday. “We need new information on this case, that is what is going to lead to it getting solved.”
The case first started in 2009 when a woman’s pet dog found a single human bone in the area of a housing development off of Dennis Chaves Boulevard and 118th Street. The discovery lead Albuquerque Police to open an massive search that lasted over a month. In the end, investigators eventually found the remains of 11 women and an unborn child buried in several graves throughout the area.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Thompson called the case an “open and active investigation,” while saying she wanted to dispel several myths about the investigation. Thompson qualified the following statements as myths: “investigators know who did this, but aren’t doing anything because this person’s dead,” “there are only two suspects,” and “we haven’t solved it because investigators simply don’t care about these women.”
13 years later, Albuquerque Police have never officially or publicly named suspects in the case. However, two names have been widely reported as people APD has looked into: Joseph Blea and Lorenzo Montoya.
In a 2018 interview with now former APD Chief Mike Geier, who helped lead the investigation into the murders, Geier qualified Montoya and Blea as the department’s “two strongest candidates,” in terms of suspects in the murder cold case.
“I think they’re our two strongest candidates, so to speak as the main suspects but you know sometimes there’s a surprise and there maybe be someone we never even looked at,” Geier told KRQE News 13 in 2018. “A suspect is actually somebody we anticipate charging with the crime and I don’t ever think we reached that stage to develop enough grounds or enough probable cause to point fingers at an individual.”
Now lead by Chief Harold Medina, APD and other city officials revealed Wednesday a retired APD Homicide Sergeant Liz Thompson is now leading investigative work on the case. Thompson was hired back to APD in 2021 as a contract investigator on cold cases.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Thompson said. “We have eliminated many suspects, at this time there are a number of people being investigated as person’s of interest.”
Thompson said tips continue to come in almost every single week, charting close to 1,200 tips in the case, in total. She says there are “a number of people being investigative as persons of interest,” but declined to go into detail on who those people are, but calling the number of suspects a “dynamic number” that’s “more than two, and more than a few.”
“The number [of suspects] does change as we start looking into a new tip or eliminate someone,” Thompson said. “But I can tell you its more than the two [people] that are commonly out there.”
“This person may have been charming, or friendly in order to build trust or a relationship of some kind with the women first,” Thompson said, describing the assumed profile of the suspect in West Mesa murders. “This person is a predator, he sought out vulnerable women.”
Albuquerque CrimeStoppers continues to offer a reward of up to $100,000 for information related to the case. If you have any information about the case, call 505-768-2450 or Crime Stopper at 505-843-STOP. You can also contact APD investigator Ida Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June 2020, the City of Albuquerque opened a long awaited park at the burial site, memorializing the victims of the murders.