Wednesday, November 18, 2009
9th, 10th Victims Identified; Both Disappeared in 2004
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
Officials have identified two more victims of a serial killer who turned a patch of Albuquerque's West Mesa into a makeshift graveyard five or six years ago.
Virginia Ann Cloven and Evelyn Jesusmaria Salazar were both reported missing in 2004. They are the ninth and 10th victims to be identified.
Now, only one of the 11 victims whose skeletons were uncovered earlier this year in shallow graves near 118th and Dennis Chavez SW remains unidentified.
Forensic experts at North Texas University used DNA to identify Salazar and Cloven.
Police say they've narrowed their list of suspects to a small handful by holding scores of interviews, chasing leads, serving search warrants and other methods during the past 9 1/2 months.
"These identifications provide more important clues and move us another step closer to solving this case," Albuquerque Police spokeswoman Nadine Hamby said Tuesday.
Robert Cloven, Virginia's father, said he hopes that nearly completing the victims portion of the West Mesa puzzle will help investigators get the killer.
"I sure wish they'd catch the guy that did it," Cloven said in a telephone interview late Tuesday. "And I sure hope they get that last girl ID'd.
"I know we have kept the same phone number all these years, hoping she'd call. We kept hoping she was in California or Florida and had kids or something. We've hoped since 2004 that she was out there, somewhere, alive."
Robert Cloven last heard from his daughter in June 2004. She called to say she had a new boyfriend who had just gotten out of prison and that she was probably going to marry him.
"We said we'd like to meet him, but we never heard from her again," he said. "After that, everything just went dead. We don't celebrate Christmas anymore because it's not home without children."
Robert Cloven reported his daughter missing four months later, in October 2004. She was 23 at the time.
Salazar's family reported her missing on April 3, 2004. She had last been seen about a week earlier. Salazar was also 23 at the time she went missing.
Cloven's and Salazar's names were among those on a list of missing women who had struggled with substance abuse and led a shadowy, transient lifestyle that included prostitution. So were the names of Victoria Chavez, Julie Nieto, Cinnamon Elks, Monica Candelaria, Veronica Romero, Doreen Marquez and Gina Michelle Valdez.
They were all local women; many knew each other. They were all white or Hispanic, and all were in their 20s or 30s.
Syllannia Edwards, a 15-year-old runaway from Lawton, Okla., is the only one of the victims identified so far who does not fit that profile. She was younger, she was black, and she had no known ties to Albuquerque. And she was not on the list.
Hamby said the work missing persons detectives did in compiling the list, which dates back as far as 2001, has proven invaluable as investigators search for the city's most prolific killer ever.
"Without that work and without that list, we would not be as far along as we are now," she said.