Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
In the fall of 2012 Liz Thomson, then a sergeant with the Albuquerque Police Department, oversaw her first homicide case – the fatal shooting of 54-year-old Eduardo Quintana in a house near Juan Tabo and Menaul NE.
Over the next five years, she and her team of detectives investigated 239 more.
Thomson ran APD’s homicide unit during one of the biggest spikes in killings in Albuquerque’s recent history. When she retired at the end of December 2017, there had been 75 homicides over the year – more than twice as many as in 2014.
Of the 240 homicides her unit investigated, she estimates about 56 remain unsolved.
In May, Thomson embarked on a two-week project to memorialize those 240 victims by walking 300 kilometers (almost 200 miles) of the Camino de Santiago across Northwestern Spain.
“Historically, this path was taken to pay tribute to the dead, to walk their souls to the end of the earth,” Thomson told the Journal. “I thought that’s perfect. That’s what I want to do. I want to walk these people and pay tribute to them by walking this path.”
For Thomson that tribute took the form of recording herself about every 15 minutes saying the name of each victim aloud as she walked down dirt paths, on the streets of small Spanish towns, and through forests and fields.
At the end, she had a 30 minute video that she posted on a website she built for the project.
“I wanted it to be very authentic – when that timer went off whatever we were seeing or hearing that would be recorded,” she said. “I was surprised that I could remember so many details about almost all the cases. I met many of the families, I remember the stories about their loved ones and the details or circumstances.”
Thomson said in the weeks since she published the video on a website and on YouTube she has gotten emails from family members of victims and from complete strangers thanking her for remembering their loved ones.
“The humanity of investigations gets lost in all the bureaucracy and chaos of the system,” she said. “The system isn’t very compassionate, isn’t very humane, and that can really wear on people. I just felt like I wanted to take it back to the basics of what could I do to show that compassionate side and let them know that this really was something I did think about and did discuss.”