A park meant to honor the victims of the West Mesa murders has some people upset about what the park includes and what it leaves out.
“If we don’t even say what happened to these women, why even have the park?” said Christine Barber with Street Safe New Mexico, a non-profit who works to help women involved in prostitution or living on the street.
The city broke ground last summer on a park being built over the burial site of 11 women and an unborn baby, all victims of the West Mesa Serial Killer. Not seen in the original plan released by the city, are two surprise additions now engraved in the sidewalk near the engraved names of the women. The father of one of the victims, and the dog who found the first bone have their own dedications. “I’m sure Rucca was an incredibly sweet dog, but this is a park for people who passed away,” said Barber.
What troubles Barber is how much more visitors can read about Dan Valdez and Rucca, than the actual victims. “You will leave the park knowing more about Rucca the dog who found 11 women than you will about any of these women,” said Barber.
The city, at the request of the victim’s families, has no plans to add a plaque explaining what happened to the women or why this park is located where it is. “If they did not know about west mesa before, they will not leave here enriched,” said Barber.
City Councilor Klarissa Pena, who represents the southwest district, said the women’s families wanted to include the aptly named dog. “It means woman, right? So this dog named woman actually found the bones,” said Barber.
She adds that the families didn’t want to focus on how the women died or the dark parts of their lives, like their similar struggles with drug addiction and prostitution. “They want this memorial to be a remembrance of their loved ones and who they were, and that this affliction isn’t who they were as people,” said Barber.
Barber believes how they died is part of their story and not sharing it is hiding the truth. “We can be honest and kind and gentle. This is none of that. This is just a bunch of cement,” said Barber. Valdez is the grandfather of the unborn baby killed.
A tribute to the child will be built during phase two of the project. The next phase will add grass and shrubbery to the park and add other finishing touches. The work is expected to be done by the end of this year or early next year.