ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque police said Tuesday they believe they have cracked an 8-year-old cold case that involved the beating of a woman who managed to scratch her attacker so his DNA would be found under her fingernails.
That DNA led officers to arrest 51-year-old Mark Chavez at an Albuquerque homeless shelter Tuesday.
In a separate case, Chavez had been arrested on murder charges in January in connection with the killing of a Moriarty woman he was dating, but charges were dropped because there wasn’t enough evidence, according to KOAT-TV. Those charges can be refiled.
In 2006, APD officers responded to the beating, in which the victim said her face was slammed into a piece of glass during the attack. Thinking she would not survive, she scratched him to preserve some of his DNA, APD spokeswoman Sgt. Ferris Simmons said Tuesday.
“It’s incredibly sick and, for the victim, it was absolutely horrifying,” Simmons said. “This woman is a warrior. She planned to be able to provide the identity of her killer when she thought she was moments from her death. To have that wherewithal is amazing.”
After she escaped, the woman was disoriented and hysterical and couldn’t fully tell police what happened. Police were unable to find the man who she said was responsible. They tried to reach her after she was released from the hospital, according to the criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
The case was turned over to cold case detectives, who found the victim in March and were able to get more details about the attack.
She said she had been living in a motel on Central near 47th Street when she went to a nearby friend’s house to use an iron. He directed her to his neighbor – also known as “Elvis” – and she used his iron. She noticed that the inside of his house was covered in white sheets, the complaint says.
A few weeks later, she visited her friend again, and when she left, “Elvis” asked her for a cigarette. She went inside his home and noticed he had secured the door with rope. When she tried to leave, he attacked her, pulling her into a different room where he had an array of items set up for the beating, according to the complaint.
He began by striking her with a chain wrapped around his hand and then placed a chemical-soaked cloth over her face, causing her to become dizzy, according to the complaint. He started beating her legs with a 2-by-4 board, then shattered a window over her face and tried to smother her with a towel, the complaint says.
It does not say how she was able to escape. She recently showed police the home where the beating occurred, and they learned it had belonged to Chavez, who used “Elvis” as an alias.
In the Moriarty case, the victim’s body had been in a van for at least four days before police executed a search warrant and found it. Simmons said she believes that case is still being investigated.
Asked whether Chavez had any connection to the killing of 12 women whose bodies were found on the West Mesa, Simmons said he was not a suspect. However, he was looked at by detectives in that case, who follow “every single lead,” Simmons said.