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Monday, September 14, 2009
Haunting Slayings Inspire Documentary
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
Journal Staff Writer
Charlie Minn swears that he's not the same sophomoric, spiky-haired sportscaster he was 16 years ago when he filled his frenetic weekend spot at KRQE-Channel 13 with hockey fight footage, flying props and explosive shouts of "Let's go!" when no other coherent sports-speak came to mind.
"I was young," Minn, now 41, says. "I didn't know what I was doing."
He does now, he thinks.
Minn's vast and fast and not altogether successful career — he was fired from KRQE after about nine months of shenanigans on and off the air — has veered across the country between local news gigs, acting bits and, now, filmmaking, which he says he finds the most rewarding if not yet the most lucrative.
He returned last week to New Mexico to put his filmmaking skills to use on a feature-length documentary, his second, about an unsolved murder case that has haunted him for nearly 20 years.
Las Cruces Bowl was the only bowling alley in that Aggie town when the sun rose Feb. 10, 1990. By 9 a.m., it was also the site of one of the bloodiest mass murders in state history.
Four died that Saturday morning, including three children, in what became known as the Las Cruces Bowling Alley Massacre; a fifth died years later from injuries she suffered in the shooting.
The dead were pin mechanic Steven Teran, 26, and his daughters, Paula, 5, and Valerie, 2; Amy Houser, 13; and Stephanie Senac, bowling alley manager and the owner's daughter.
Only Melissa Repass, Senac's 15-year-old daughter, and former snack bar cook Ida Holguin are alive today.
Two armed men had walked into the bowling alley, ordered everybody to the floor and ransacked the place in search of something they apparently never found.
They took $5,000, leaving a large sum of cash in the safe.
Then they shot everybody in the back of the head, unloading more than 12 rounds.
A fire they set in the office and the water damage from firefighters' efforts obliterated any fingerprint or forensic evidence that could have been used to identify the gunmen.
Nearly 20 years later, the case remains unsolved.
"I still can't believe this happened," Minn says, still with the sharp, staccato voice of an over-energized sportscaster. "This is as bad as it gets, this case. It's beyond comprehension. It's grossly unfair. I'm almost obsessed with it."
No, he is obsessed with it.
Minn says he recalls hearing about it when he came to Albuquerque in 1992. Even after he moved on, he says he checked up on the case every couple of years by calling the Las Cruces Police Department and, later, by Googling.
"Nothing came up but old stuff," he says. "Someone had to do something to help solve this. If it's me, so be it."
Minn, who is bankrolling the documentary, arrived earlier this month from his home in New York City to film for six days. We met in Albuquerque minutes after filming wrapped last Wednesday.
Filming a serious show is a far cry from the days when Minn riled viewers with fits of throwing his shoes at the camera.
"But it's been an important development for me," he says. "It's probably the most emotional thing I've ever done."
Minn says the new owners of the bowling alley, now called Sun Lanes, allowed him to film there.
Las Cruces police detective Mark Myers, who has been on the case for eight years, led Minn to witnesses, family members of victims and the two survivors.
The documentary will be the first time Repass has publicly spoken about the shootings, how even with a bullet in her skull she was able to call 911 and partly snuff out the office fire.
"She was truly a hero," Minn says.
Both women, he says, bear the emotional scars of that day 19 years ago. Repass, just a teen then, lives in seclusion. Holguin lives in torment.
The documentary will focus on their lives and those of the other victims, rather than the theories behind the shootings, of which there are many. The hope, Minn says, is that reminding the public of who these people are, who they were, will inspire someone to come forward.
"Someone," Minn says, "knows something."
UpFront is a daily front-page opinion column. You can reach Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.