ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It has been 23 years, eight Albuquerque police chiefs, dozens of news articles, 75 pages of a private investigator’s report and one best-selling book since a killer – or killers – shot 18-year-old University of New Mexico student Kaitlyn Arquette twice in the head in her car on Lomas NE, her death remaining one of the most notorious unsolved homicides in Albuquerque.
I’ve written a lot of those news articles over the years, and each time I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Arquette’s mother, author Lois Duncan, whose pointed 1992 book “Who Killed My Daughter?” drew national attention to her daughter’s case and ire from the Albuquerque Police Department.
And each time I have been in awe of her persistence in pursuing a case that continues, she says, to yield more evidence, more questions, more heartache.
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Yet for most of those years since the July 16, 1989, shooting, APD has considered the case closed, a random drive-by shooting in which three young suspects were arrested and then let go when the star witness admitted he was coerced into making up the story.
A time or two, it appeared Duncan might get her wish and the case would be reopened.
“There is interest, and then something happens,” said Duncan, who this morning was scheduled to give the keynote address in Costa Mesa, Calif., at the annual National/International conference of Compassionate Friends, a group for parents whose children have died.
“I have to hope that APD will do it, but I also have hope that somebody will come directly to us with the information we need. I know there are people who know, who have been afraid to speak out. All it will take is one of them.”
And so it has gone for longer than Arquette was alive.
You know the story if you’ve lived here long enough. Arquette, a vivacious Highland High School graduate, went to have dinner at a friend’s house near Old Town on that rainy Sunday night. She left the friend’s home around 10:30 p.m. and headed east on Lomas in her 1984 red Ford Tempo.
From here, the official police version of what happened and the version Duncan’s private investigator, Pat Caristo, has uncovered diverge.
Police believe Arquette was shot twice, her car drifting across three oncoming lanes of traffic on Lomas to the left and into a light pole near Arno Street.
Caristo’s investigation found that Arquette’s car was hit and forced off the road by another or possibly two vehicles, as evidenced by the damage to the left rear bumper and side panel of her car. Only after she crashed into the pole and put her car in park was she shot, likely at close range with small-caliber bullets.
Yet a large hole near the driver’s-side window appears to have been created by large-caliber ammo, suggesting two guns were used that night.
At 11 p.m., APD detective Ronald Merriman arrived on scene and reported seeing a “small car” parked near the Tempo, his report says. Witnesses described it as a primer-gray Volkswagen Beetle.
Officer Marianne Wallace arrived seconds later, according to her police report.
Yet statements from two ambulance workers say no officer was present when they arrived.
There is no indication that either officer questioned to any great extent the man with the Volkswagen – Paul Apodaca, 21. Yet records show Apodaca and his brother, Mark, had a history of violence, which eventually landed both in prison – Mark in 1995 for his role in the murder of Albuquerque teen Adam Price; Paul months later for repeatedly raping his 14-year-old stepsister, supposedly to get into prison to be near his brother.
Arquette’s neighbors also told detectives they had seen three men who may have been acquaintances of Arquette’s former live-in-boyfriend spray-painting a primer-gray Volkswagen Beetle black in her apartment parking lot shortly after the shooting.
Duncan has long contended that her daughter was killed because she knew too much about a car insurance scam allegedly involving her ex-boyfriend in which cars were deliberately rammed into. That scam may have extended into a larger crime ring that included some of New Mexico’s most prominent citizens, Duncan said.
But all that investigation, all that work, all those words over all those years have still amounted to nothing but heartache and frustration.
“It never goes away,” Duncan told me Monday, the 23rd anniversary of Arquette’s shooting. “It just doesn’t go away because it hasn’t been finished.”
So here’s another plea to APD for another look. How many more years, how many more stories, how much more evidence must go by before that happens?
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal