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Bones not connected to West Mesa murders

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

False alarm.

Despite much speculation, the human remains found at an undeveloped West Mesa park Tuesday are not connected to New Mexico’s largest unsolved serial killing case.

They are ancient Native American bones, likely from between the years A.D. 1100 and 1300, according to the Office of the Medical Investigator, the agency that investigates deaths in New Mexico.

The site is a half-mile south of a more sinister excavation in 2009, when the bodies of 11 women were pulled from shallow graves on Albuquerque’s West Mesa, and police began a frantic search for a serial killer. There has long been speculation that there was a second burial site for even more women, partly because several women disappeared in 2005 and 2006. That speculation seemed more possible when police announced that remains were found Tuesday.

But now investigators on the West Mesa case are back to square one. And so are the parents whose daughters disappeared and who have never been found.

Theresa Fresquez’s daughter, Nina Herron, is one of those missing women. Herron disappeared in May 2005, and Fresquez has been left wondering and waiting.

She learned Friday that the bones were prehistoric.

“I was kind of disappointed because I know there’s more women there,” Fresquez said Friday afternoon. “The moms are still waiting for closure. We’re still waiting and praying.”

The park where the bones were found was the site of an archaeological dig a few years ago. Archaeologists found the remnants of a 1,000-year-old food-preparation site with a campsite, food storage pit and pottery shards.

Those artifacts were taken to a museum, and the Anderson Heights Park was approved for construction in 2016.

Matt Schmader was the city’s archaeologist during the excavation and said the team was focused on the northern and eastern edges of the park where artifacts were found. The human remains were found closer to the middle.

“It’s too bad the investigation didn’t find this a few years ago,” he said, when the artifacts were found.

Chief Medical Investigator Kurt Nolte said investigators examined the skeleton’s teeth and other indicators to determine how old it was. He also said he doesn’t believe there are any other remains at the site. The state archaeologist will take over the dig.

Officials had said they hoped the bones would offer some answers for waiting family members. But those answers will have to wait.

“It’s not lost on us that there are family members whose loved ones are missing and thought this discovery might bring them closure,” Nolte said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to those families.”

The relatives of the 11 women who were found on the mesa in 2009 are also waiting for closure. Police have named two potential suspects in the case, but neither has been formally accused.

One, Lorenzo Montoya, was killed in 2006 after strangling an escort to death in his trailer. But police have said they found no physical evidence tying him to the West Mesa victims.

The other, Joseph Blea, is serving a 90-year prison sentence for a series of brutal sexual assaults. He recently lost an appeal but can appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The West Mesa investigation appears to have stalled in recent years, and police have said they have few leads.

Fresquez said the lack of answers still haunts her. She said she hopes detectives will keep searching for the women who haven’t been found.

“My daughter’s been missing for 13 years,” Fresquez said. “I don’t know if she’s up there, but we’ve got to keep on looking, because they have to be somewhere.”

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