ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The suspect in an Albuquerque rape cold case from more than 20 years ago is now behind bars. It was another case that fell through the cracks because of the rape kit backlog. Back in 1999, a man walked into a woman’s house in the middle of the night and attacked her. Twenty-three years later, police say they’ve tracked him down in California.
“Anytime you catch a break in a case that is that old, it’s an extraordinary thing,” said Raul Torrez, Bernalillo County District Attorney. Christopher Salazar, 41, is behind bars for allegedly raping a woman in her house near Lomas Blvd. and Washington St. in 1999 when he was just 19.
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According to court documents, the woman fell asleep watching TV on her couch when police say Salazar entered her residence through her unlocked door while drunk. The woman said she tried to fight him off and Salazar claimed he was armed. Police say he put a pillow over her face and raped her.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we identified other victims in other cases that could potentially match this MO but obviously it’s very early in the investigation and I don’t want to speculate about whether or not we can call this a serial,” said Torrez.
Court documents say Salazar lived in Albuquerque from 1999 to 2002. He then moved back to Corona, California, near Los Angeles where he went to high school. According to social media, he owns a plumbing and remodeling business that has the same listed address as his home.
The Albuquerque Police Department said the rape kit, in this case, was part of the department’s backlog and eventually got tested. In March 2020, APD’s Sex Crimes Unit got a match to Salazar’s DNA from a national database. His DNA may have been in the system from a 2002 assault case conviction in California.
“We put a lot of time, energy, and emphasis on clearing the backlog and getting those kits tested. But that’s just the beginning. What we’ve effectively done is move the case forward. But there’s a lot of investigative work that still needs to be done. Not only on this case, but on lots of other cases that are like this,” said Torrez. APD worked with the police in California to arrest Salazar at his Corona home last month.
Last week, he was brought back to New Mexico. “We look forward to prosecuting the case and frankly engaging with the victim and sharing this important update that finally, we’re going to have a day in court,” said Torrez.
Salazar does have a record from his time in Albuquerque. He was convicted of domestic violence in 1998 as an 18-year-old. The state has filed a motion to keep Salazar behind bars until trial. His jail mugshot is not available yet because of the ransomware attack on the county.