West Mesa murder mystery gets renewed national attention

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Almost eight years after the first bone was found, the killer still has not been found in the West Mesa murders. As the unsolved murder mystery gets renewed national attention, theories are emerging again that somewhere out there, a second burial site may exist.

Eleven victims were discovered in that mass burial site on the West Mesa, but eight women are still missing, possible victims of the killer feared dead, and science may be the solution to finding out where.

The tract of land on 118th and Amole Mesa Southwest is just desert. Homes won’t go up there anytime soon for a big reason.

“We are on the West Mesa burial site,” noted Christine Barber. She is executive director of Street Safe New Mexico, a nonprofit organization that helps women struggling with drugs and turning tricks on Albuquerque streets, just like ten of the eleven West Mesa victims.

“This isn’t anything that’s talked about anymore. However, these women are still missing,” Barber said, holding a poster of the women who vanished amid similar circumstances.

Andy Jochems, a field geologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, told KRQE News 13, “I believe that there is another burial site somewhere.”

Jochems and Barber started analyzing aerial images near the burial site, noting changes in soil moisture and color. Something stood out about half a mile from the makeshift grave site.

“We settled on ground penetrating radar,” Jochems said.

All signs pointed to digging in that suspicious area, and there was nothing natural about it.

“What was interesting was that the location had these two indentations that looked really artificial. They didn’t look like they were made by any natural processes, like runoff from strong thunderstorms in the summer, or wind blowing sand,” Jochems said. “They looked like they were definitely man-made and not a natural geologic process,” he explained on scene this week.

The West Mesa case this month got new attention on A&E’s “The Killing Season.” During the program, Jochems’ equipment shot radar waves into the ground. The imagery was telling.

“There was some disturbance within the upper six feet of sediment and soil, so it had been definitely been dug,” he said.

Perhaps was it a pre-dug grave a murder victim never made it to. “I think that’s definitely a possibility in this case,” he noted.

Five years after the first bone was unearthed, a KRQE News 13 Special Assignment report shed light on the suspect list, including Lorenzo Montoya, a frequent john with a violent history toward women who met his fate by a pimp’s bullet.

Joseph Blea, a notorious rapist, also was revealed as a possible of suspect. He’s now serving 36 years of hard time in state prison. But to this day, there have been hundreds of tips, but zero arrests.

“I don’t actually believe there is a suspect still around,” Barber revealed this week.

She believes, “It’s statistically unlikely for a serial killer to stop killing, and so it is more likely that either he is arrested or he is dead.”

And if there is another final resting place for the missing eight, Jochems said, “I think finding the second site is really the hardest part.”

Jochems and Barber realize they’re not homicide investigators, but they hope their detective work helps this cold case warm up.

APD has no new information to release on this case, but the department is following any new leads that come in.

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