Prosecutors plow forward with '80s cold case - Albuquerque Journal

Prosecutors plow forward with ’80s cold case

Kaitlyn Arquette, 18, was fatally shot while driving in downtown Albuquerque in July 1989. Paul Apodaca faces a murder charge in her killing. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

Prosecutors are grinding ahead with their case against a man accused of killing three women in the late 1980s and are tracking down and interviewing witnesses, Deputy District Attorney David Waymire told a judge Friday.

The investigations into all three cold-case homicides are proceeding simultaneously, he told 2nd Judicial District Judge Courtney Weaks.

Paul Apodaca, 54, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killings of 18-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette in July 1989, 13-year-old Stella Gonzales in September 1988, and 21-year-old Aletha Oakley in June 1988.

No trials have been scheduled in any of those cases.

Police allege Apodaca confessed to the killings after he was picked up by University of New Mexico Police in 2021.

His attorney, Nicholas Hart, contends the alleged confessions were obtained by “unconstitutional and coercive” methods.

“Those statements are in fact striking because of what they do not contain; the statements do not contain a single fact that had not previously been disclosed to the public in these three high-profile, widely-covered cases,” Hart said in a written response to questions from the Journal.

Prosecutors so far have interviewed up to 50 witnesses “but there are still a lot to go,” Waymire said at the hearing in Arquette’s killing.

“We’re doing them on all three cases,” he said. “Some of the witnesses overlap, some don’t. We are just kind of going through and trying to do as many as we can. It is harder to track down some of the witnesses from that long ago.”

Paul Apodaca

Apodaca appeared in the remote hearing from the Lea County Correctional Facility, where he is being held on a probation violation.

Arquette was shot in the head as she was driving east on Lomas NE near Arno in July 1989. Her car crashed into a lightpole. She died the next day.

Arquette’s killing attracted national attention, in part because her mother, successful novelist Lois Duncan, wrote a nonfiction book about the killing, “Who Killed My Daughter?” Duncan died in 2016.

Hart estimated that the defense team has interviewed about 40 witnesses so far, “with more scheduled during the next two months.”

The prosecution’s case suffers because of the age of the killings, Hart said.

“There are witnesses that the state cannot find,” he said. “There are witnesses who have limited to no memory of statements that they previously gave. And there are witnesses that have passed away.”

The prosecution has disclosed the results of DNA and fingerprint testing, but “no physical evidence has been produced that ties Mr. Apodaca to any of these offenses,” Hart said.

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