Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Final Mesa Victim Is ID'd
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
Her name was Jamie Barela.
She was 15 when she was reported missing in April 2004.
She is the 11th and last of the West Mesa victims to be identified.
Albuquerque police announced Tuesday that they have finally put names and faces to all 11 women whose remains were found in shallow graves at the West Mesa dumping ground of a serial killer.
The first victim was discovered nearly a year ago, at the site near 118th and Dennis Chavez.
Barela was last seen at a family gathering at an Albuquerque park with her 23-year-old cousin, Evelyn Salazar, who also has been identified as one of the West Mesa victims.
Forensic experts at the University of North Texas plodded through months of tedious testing to identify Barela through a DNA match, authorities said.
The long-awaited identification of Barela gives police the opportunity to accomplish one of the goals they set after a hiker found what turned out to be a human leg bone last February.
They get to give an 11th and final family a definitive answer about their loved one.
"We have always said that the identities of the victims were crucial to this investigation," Albuquerque police spokeswoman Nadine Hamby said. "Now that we have that portion of the puzzle complete, we are hopefully one step closer to solving this case."
Police say they've narrowed their list of suspects to a small handful by conducting scores of interviews, chasing leads, serving search warrants and other methods during the past 11-months plus.
Barela's mother said through a friend that she was too emotional to speak with the Journal on Tuesday.
Most of the victims' names, including Salazar's, were among those on a list of missing women who had struggled with substance abuse and led a shadowy, transient lifestyle that included prostitution.
Missing persons detectives began compiling the list after noticing a trend around the middle of 2005: Victoria Chavez, Julie Nieto, Cinnamon Elks, Monica Candelaria, Veronica Romero, Doreen Marquez, Virginia Cloven and Gina Michelle Valdez.
But Barela and another 15-year-old victim, Syllania Edwards, were not on that list. They were both younger than the other women, who all were in their 20s or 30s when they disappeared.
Edwards was a runaway from Lawton, Okla., who had no known ties to Albuquerque.