ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From the beginning, she was an important face in the Albuquerque Police Department’s investigation into the city’s largest unsolved crime.
Missing persons detective Ida Lopez had spent years searching for many of the 11 women whose bodies eventually were found buried in 2009 in shallow graves on the West Mesa.
“She put her whole heart into it. That was her looking for her own kids when it’s our kids,” said Eleanor Griego, whose daughter was one of the victims. “When they found them, she cried for them, too.”
Then, in 2014, with the mass killing still unsolved, Lopez moved out of state and retired.
Now, the Journal has learned she is back on the case.
Police have confirmed Lopez is working on a contract basis to investigate the West Mesa murders. She started about a year ago, according to Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier.
Tixier said the department decided to bring Lopez back because of her long connection to the case and her relationships with the victims’ families.
“Her complete depth of knowledge of this case is not something that can be just passed along to the next detective who takes over the case,” Tixier said. “You can look at the case file and try to get a good grasp on it, but unless you were there from day one, you’re not going to have the intimate knowledge of the case that Ida would have.”
Lopez caught national attention by appearing on Dateline in a story about the West Mesa case that aired in December 2010. Lopez, through Tixier, declined an interview with the Journal .
Prior to Lopez’s return, one investigator, Detective Mark Manary, remained on the case full time. He was assigned to the case when Lopez retired and will continue working on it.
Manary has pursued multiple tips and leads this year, but nothing has panned out, Tixier said. And the murders, which police believe were the work of a serial killer, remain unsolved.