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Thursday, March 12, 2009
Police Connect ID'd Women
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
The four women shared a common bond: A lifestyle that included a fringe existence of transient living, struggles with drug addiction and arrests for prostitution.
They also all knew each other.
Who else they all might have known may be as important. That's the question detectives are now scrutinizing as they try to unravel the mystery of 13 victims whose remains have been discovered on the far Southwest Mesa during the past six weeks.
"We've got several detectives working hard on that angle right now," police Chief Ray Schultz told the Journal on Wednesday. "These girls definitely had contact with each other. What or who may those contacts have also led to?"
The chief confirmed that some evidence has been found with the victims' bones, though he would not elaborate.
On Wednesday, police released the names of Cinnamon Elks and Julie Nieto. Nieto was the sixth victim found on the mesa near 118th and Dennis Chavez SW; Elks was the eighth. The Office of the Medical Investigator used dental and medical records to identify the women's remains.
Elks and Nieto join Victoria Chavez, whose skeleton was the first one found, and Gina Michelle Valdez.
All four were reported missing in 2004 or early 2005.
"It's not uncommon that they knew each other," the chief said. "It's a small community we're talking about. These girls all kind of watch out for each other. They let each other know when something is out of the ordinary, when someone is out there who has an unusual fetish that's just too weird and is driving a certain car.
"What is unusual is that, in this case, we didn't have anyone coming forward and saying that. The thing to remember, though, is that there seems to be all this speculation about the prostitution aspect of this case. It is just as likely that it could be the drug connection."
The victims' families say they have long suspected their loved ones might have fallen victim to some sort of foul play.
Gloria Gonzales, Nieto's aunt, said Nieto was totally dedicated to her son, who is now 9.
"Even at her lowest points, she would never leave her son," Gonzales said. "She sent Christmas presents and Easter baskets when (her son) was staying in Los Lunas and she was in Albuquerque. When that stopped, we knew something had happened."