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Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Recent discovery on West Mesa is woman who was pregnant
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
The body count keeps climbing.
Police unearthed remains of a 10th victim Monday afternoon on a partly developed patch of the Far Southwest Mesa, the site of what Police Chief Ray Schultz said was "without a doubt" one of the largest crime scene investigations in the city's history.
The victim total includes the remains of a 4-month-old fetus whose bones were found with its mother's.
"There are 10 individuals so far and possibly more," Schultz said.
Victoria Chavez, who disappeared in 2004, is the only victim investigators have identified. Learning the identities of the remaining victims so detectives can close the net on potential suspects is the top priority of the investigation, Schultz said Monday.
To expedite that process, authorities are enlisting the help of the FBI to assist the Office of the Medical Investigator, Schultz said.
A team is using cadaver-sniffing dogs, aerial and satellite maps to comb the site for human remains and to develop leads. Archaeologists from the University of New Mexico also are assisting.
"Part of what is complicating the investigation is trying to get all the bodies together and matched up," he told a news conference Monday. "The FBI has agreed to assist in this and other areas of the investigation."
The chief remained steadfast in saying detectives believe the same person is responsible for burying the bodies near 118th Street and Dennis Chavez SW between 2000 and 2005.
One case police are interested in, he has said, involved a prostitute who was slain in late 2006 in a southwest Albuquerque trailer a few miles from where the remains have been found. The suspected killer in that case was fatally shot as he was moving the woman's body.
Police said at the time that they believed the killing was not that suspect's first, and that they were looking into his possible involvement in the disappearances of several prostitutes since 2001.
Another case detectives are looking into is that of a well-known pimp who died of natural causes in 2009 and who had pictures of missing prostitutes in his home.
Although identifying the remains is a slow process, the chief on Monday went as far as calling eight of the victims Jane Does and one Baby Doe. Investigators still haven't determined manner of death for any of the victims.
"What we need to do now is learn about (the victims,) their lives and who they were last seen with," he said.
During the past several years, detectives have compiled a list of 24 women who were either confirmed as or suspected of being prostitutes and who had been reported missing since the mid- to late 1990s, the chief said. Chavez's name was on the list.
The investigation on the mesa began Feb. 2 when someone called police to report some bones in the area. All the remains found have been within an area of about 30 yards by 30 yards, the chief said.
The approximately 100 acres police are searching was a barren stretch of desert five years ago. Since then, a planned development still unfinished led to grading and leveling.
KB Homes owns the property and had partially developed the area. The developer has been helpful, the chief said.
Schultz declined to say how much dirt had been moved on top of some of the remains or whether any other evidence has been found with the bones.
"Some things we're keeping close to the vest," Schultz said.
Police also have run into power lines at the site, which caused some area residents to lose power for a few hours last week.
The chief made it clear anyone caught in the area where investigators are excavating will be cited or arrested.
"We have had problems with people going in the area," he said. "This is an active crime scene, and officers are patrolling it at all times."