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APD Reopens Cold Case Of Missing Woman

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Almost 20 years ago, two women who disappeared within months of each other were last seen at a house near Gibson and Interstate 25.

One woman was eventually found dead, but the other is still missing. And the house in which they were both last seen was never searched – even after detectives spotted a pool of blood on the carpet.

Now, an Albuquerque police cold case detective has obtained a search warrant for the house on the 1300 block of Wheeler SE, where she hopes a sample of the blood-stained carpet will turn up DNA results.

The current owner of the house told the detective he had never changed the carpet, and a crime specialist said it was likely there were still enough remnants of blood to get a positive identification.

The case of Velda Leyba, who was 39 when she went missing on her daughter’s birthday Dec. 6, 1992, was recently reopened by the Albuquerque Police Department. The case was initially investigated by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

The other missing woman, Lisa Duncan, was found dead in Sandoval County in October 1993, according to a search warrant affidavit. Duncan had disappeared five months after Leyba, and police say a confidential informant told them Duncan was killed in the same house on Wheeler SE.

Leyba’s daughter, Isabel Candelaria, turned 20 the day her mom disappeared. In an interview with the Journal, Candelaria said she was shocked to learn investigators would give her mother’s case another shot. She long maintained that detectives had not done enough to find Leyba. She believes her mother was murdered.

“I still know that it was foul play. I know that for a fact. … I don’t feel (police) took it seriously because she was an adult,” Candelaria said.

In fact, a formal police report in Leyba’s disappearance was not even filed until two months after she vanished, when police found her car abandoned.

This year, while rummaging through Leyba’s case files, a detective found a search warrant for the house on Wheeler, but the warrant was in reference to the disappearance of Duncan. It’s unclear how that search warrant wound up in Leyba’s file, and the detective could not be reached for comment late Friday.

After weeks of investigating and trying to track down evidence, the detective discovered that the house on Wheeler had never been searched, even though a Bernalillo County sheriff’s detective had spotted blood on the carpet while investigating Duncan’s disappearance.

Then, a few weeks ago, the detective contacted the current owner of the house, who had not lived there when the women vanished.

“I want closure,” Candelaria said. “I want to be able to put my mom to rest and have her remains with my dad’s and be able to put them to rest together.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal