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FBI, sheriff give another look to cold murder case

Sandoval County Sheriff Jesse James Casaus, left, prepares to speak while FBI Special Agent Jim Langenberg waits during press conference to explain that the sheriff’s office and FBI are reopening a 45-year-old homicide case. Mary “Molly” Aleta Sparks, pictured in the center, was killed in 1975, with her body found in Algodones. No one was ever charged. Amy Byres photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — In efforts to solve a 45-year-old cold-case homicide, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office partners with the FBI to ask the public for help.

Mary “Molly” Aleta Sparks

In a press conference at the 13th Judicial District Court, the FBI and sheriff’s office discussed the investigation of 21-year-old Mary “Molly” Aleta Sparks’ murder.

At the time, she was a recent graduate from the University of New Mexico and a member of the Sweat Hogs rugby team. She was last seen alive on July 23, 1975, between 9 and 11 p.m.

Sparks borrowed her father’s car and went to Rosa’s Cantina in Algodones. She was planning to meet friends and rugby teammates.

“Molly never returned home that night, but her car was found by the cantina the following day,” said Sandoval County Sheriff Jesse James Casaus.

Sparks’ body was found on July 24, 1975, in a drainage ditch west of Rosa’s Cantina. Her body had blunt force trauma to her head and neck, with possible strangulation.

“We understand that Algodones is a small yet close-knit community where what happens to one is felt by all. We asked everyone here today to request your help,” he said.

The case is being reopened because of new technology and resources available at the FBI, said Special Agent Jim Langenberg.

“Investigators are reviewing the evidence to see if technology not available at the time of the crime will allow us to develop new clues,” he said. “As many of you have seen in the media lately, advancement in fields such as genealogy and data analysis have led to successful resolutions in many other cold cases.”

At the press conference on Wednesday, Langenberg made a pledge to the Sparks family.

“The FBI makes this pledge: We will use every available investigative method, technology and resource toward our unified goal in seeking justice for Molly’s family,” Langenberg said.

Molly Sparks’ brother, John Sparks, said she had just started her life and had a bright future.

The FBI and sheriff’s office believe people who are familiar with the circumstance of the case remain in the community.

“In the 45 years since her death, Molly has never been far from our hearts and minds. The manner of her death and the mystery of what happened has haunted us and has left a cloud that will hopefully be lifted soon,” Sparks said.

Today, Molly Sparks would have been 66.

“I kindly request if you have any information that would bring closure to this matter that you contact the authorities so that Molly may rest peacefully in our memories,” Sparks said.

Information about the case is at fbi.gov/albuquerque. To submit a tip — anonymously or not — visit tips.fbi.gov or call 889-1300. Tips can also be submitted to Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers at crimestoppersnm.com or 843-7867.

“For those who have already been interviewed, we thank you for your patience as we will be asking for your help again,” Langenberg said. “Even if you have already been interviewed and are new to our investigators, we know there is likely information that has not been shared.”

Sometimes people don’t come forward right away because of their relationship to individuals involved, concern for their safety or the belief their information is irrelevant, he said.

“Molly’s family and her community deserve answers. And the FBI and the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department are working hard to get them,” Langenberg said.



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