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Missouri Man Not West Mesa Suspect

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Albuquerque police have crossed a name off the suspect list in the yet-unsolved West Mesa murder mystery.

Ron Erwin of Joplin, Mo., couldn’t have been the infamous serial killer who strangled 11 women and dumped their bodies in shallow graves near 118th Street and Dennis Chavez SW between late 2003 and early 2005, APD spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said Monday.

That’s because Erwin wasn’t in Albuquerque when three of the women disappeared, Hoffman said.

“Throughout the investigative process, we have looked at several timetables, and based on (Erwin’s) activities and movements, we have determined that he was not in the city during certain key times related to this case,” she said.

APD has notified Erwin and his attorney that detectives are no longer investigating him in connection with the killings, Hoffman said.

In August 2010, APD detectives and FBI agents served search warrants on the Erwin Photo Studio and at least two residential properties owned by Erwin in the Joplin area. He was never questioned or charged with a crime.

A small group of detectives returned to Albuquerque with a U-Haul full of photographs, business and financial records and forensic evidence collected during the searches.

Erwin could not be reached for comment Monday.

But he said in an interview with the Joplin Globe that he has spent the better part of a year trying to prove his innocence behind the scenes. He hired lawyers in Joplin and New Mexico to advise him, even though he never faced charges.

Erwin told the Globe his interest in New Mexico started in 1996 when a friend recommended that he visit Albuquerque. A budding photographer, Erwin would come to New Mexico three or four times a year to shoot pictures. He made his last trip to Albuquerque in September 2006.

He said it was a coincidence that the West Mesa murders seem to have stopped about the same time he quit coming here.

Erwin lost two houses in the May 22 tornado that struck Joplin. He said coming under suspicion as a possible serial killer has been just as devastating to his personal life.

“There are things that just aren’t going to happen,” he said in the Globe interview. “If I wanted to umpire a Little League baseball game, you know, just all sorts of things you don’t even think about, that don’t seem so important, but they are. So my life is different here, and I just need to accept that. There really isn’t a lot of time for anger. I think it’s ‘I wish it hadn’t happened this way.’ ”

Hoffman said APD is still looking at the same “handful” of suspects it has been considering since early in the West Mesa investigation, which began in February 2009 when a woman walking her dog found what turned out to be a human leg bone.

APD officials have consistently declined to discuss who is on their suspect list in the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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