ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –They were bombshell confessions to cold case murders that had left families without answers for more than 30 years. Today, an accused serial killer is having second thoughts.
Paul Apodaca’s defense attorney is arguing his confessions were “unconstitutional” and shouldn’t be used against him in court. KRQE Investigatigative Reporter Gabrielle Burkhart has been following the cold case confessions of an accused serial killer.
“After years and years of searching and contemplating, I understand all the pain that I’ve caused and I feel it,” Apodaca told detectives in July of 2021. “For families. The people that I’ve murdered and raped.”
Two years ago, a middle-aged Paul Apodaca gave an Albuquerque Police detective a detailed confession to at least three cold case murders. He admitted to killing 21-year-old Althea Oakeley in 1988, 13-year-old Stella Gonzales that same year, and 18-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette in the summer of 1989.
A bombshell confession
“It’s taken me so long to know how much pain I’ve caused,” said Apodaca. “And these women perhaps didn’t understand that.”
Investigators said Apodaca gave them enough evidence to charge him in those three murders. Today, his defense attorney argues those confessions should be thrown out.
In a motion to suppress evidence, Apodaca’s attorney argues those confessions were “unconstitutionally obtained,” saying the first officers to pick him up that day from the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus failed to read him his rights initially and failed to provide medical treatment before questioning him.
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When Apodaca started confessing to murders, UNM police officers called in an Albuquerque Police (APD) detective. Lapel video from APD Detective Jodi Gonterman shows her asking Apodaca if he understood what’s going on before she asks further questions.
“You feeling okay today? Is it kinda warm in here for you?” Detective Gonterman asked. “You want me to take your hat off? It might keep you a little bit cooler. You want some water?”
That day of his first confession to detectives, Apodaca had just been found sleeping outside and possibly suffering from heat stroke. He told the detective he was tired.
“Anything you say can be used against you in court, do you understand that?” Gonterman asked. Apodaca whispered, “Yes.”
Detective Gonterman did read him his rights that day, the video shows. Still, Apodaca’s attorney now argues she “…did so only after refusing to allow paramedics to tend to Mr. Apodaca…and despite recognizing that Mr. Apodaca did not seem to understand the situation and that he needed mental health treatment.”
There wasn’t just one confession
But that wasn’t the only time Apodaca told his story to investigators. “Every once in a while when that anger would rise again, I’d go out…just drive around with a rile like a – like a hunter,” said Apodaca, three days after that first confession.
During that interview with detectives, Apodaca provided even more detail about the killings. He appeared sober, drew diagrams, named streets, and walked investigators through his crimes step by step.
In 1995, Apodaca was sentenced to 20 years for raping a young family member. He told detectives a private investigator hired by Arquette’s mother was onto him and paid him a visit in prison.
“I spent the last year in jail just crying and crying over all the things I’ve done,” said Apodaca. He said he was tired and wanted to come clean.
“It’s not so much about relieving myself of that as it is to bring closure to the people I’ve harmed,” he added.
But his attorney now argues even that confession should not be seen by a jury, claiming “Law enforcement would have never questioned or investigated Mr. Apodaca, let alone arrested him, absent Mr. Apodaca’s initial statement to the University of New Mexico police.”
“The court should therefore suppress all of Mr. Apodaca’s statements,” the motion reads. “This includes those that were made after Mr. Apodaca was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.”
A spokesperson for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office sent KRQE News 13 the following statement in response to the motion:
“We feel confident that his Constitutional Rights were protected and the defense motion will be denied.”Nancy Laflin, Communications Director for Second Judicial District Attorney
A judge has yet to rule on the motion to suppress his confessions in court. The next hearing for Apodaca’s case is scheduled for September.