Plans unveiled for West Mesa memorial to 11 slain women

The city on Thursday released this rendering of a park to memorialize the 11 victims of the West Mesa murders. (Courtesy City of Albuquerque)

EDITOR’S NOTE: A more specific address of where the park will be built is 118th Street and Amole Mesa SW.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — For now, a group of modest wooden crosses adorned with plastic flowers marks the West Mesa location where the bodies of 11 slain women were found in 2009.

But on Thursday, city leaders unveiled long-awaited plans for a simple, elegant memorial park to honor the West Mesa victims. Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year.

Landscape architect Elizabeth Reardon said the park, at 118th and Amole Mesa Avenue, will be quiet and contemplative. It features an oval turf area surrounded by a sidewalk dotted with 11 engraved memorials – one for each woman. Across from each memorial will be a bench beneath a tree selected by each woman’s relatives.

City Councilors Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez said Thursday that they have been working on the project for years. They told media representatives and victims’ relatives that they hoped the park would bring closure to the families of victims of the city’s largest unsolved homicide case.

Police believe the women were killed by serial killer who targeted vulnerable women in Albuquerque, some of whom worked as prostitutes.

Julie Gonzales, whose sister Doreen Marquez is one of the 11 victims, also spoke at the ceremony Thursday. It was her first time visiting the site in eight years, she said, and she found herself nervous and shaking. She hopes the park will be a place where she and her family can spend time together, thinking about her sister, while making new memories.

Marquez’s daughter, Mercedes Chavez, said she can see herself sitting under her mother’s tree reading a book. The two made plans to play soccer in the park’s lawn, and to celebrate Marquez’s birthday there.

Families of the West Mesa women have fought for years for a permanent memorial. The 2-acre park site was deeded in 2016 to the city by developer KB Homes, according to a news release. And $350,000 in funding came from the city, with another $50,000 provided by a state grant. Additional funding will be required to complete the park, but the first phase includes the trees and plaques with the women’s names.

Gonzales said she wants Albuquerque residents to come to the park to “hang out with the girls” who were found there.

“Sit here and think that they were mothers, daughters, sisters,” she said. “They’re humans, too. They weren’t just someone thrown under the dirt.”

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