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          Front Page




Cold Case, Deaths Linked?

By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
       Police served a search warrant last week in a sexual assault that cold case detectives believe is related to the investigation into the deaths of 11 women whose remains were uncovered on the Far Southwest Mesa.
    The warrant has been sealed by a judge, but Police Chief Ray Schultz said detectives collected evidence at an Albuquerque home Friday that could be related to the West Mesa case.
    It was the second search warrant police have served in recent weeks, the chief said, as detectives continue their effort to unravel the mystery surrounding the deaths and burials in shallow graves near 118th and Dennis Chavez SW.
    Schultz declined to discuss details of the first warrant detectives served.
    He said he is pleased with the overall progress of the investigation, which began Feb. 2 when a woman found a human leg bone on the mesa while walking her dog.
    The 40-member task force charged with finding the women's killer "continues to be extremely active," Schultz said. "A lot of the information we've gathered has led us to more information, more people with information about the case. This investigation has been like a chain: We follow the links, get referrals and chase those down. It's a good thing. People are talking."
    Schultz said detectives the past two weeks have been in Texas, Arizona and throughout New Mexico following up on leads
    Albuquerque detectives have also spoken with authorities in Wisconsin about a possible connection between the West Mesa killings and a similar case there.
    Milwaukee police said they have linked seven cases to a possible serial killer who is suspected of a number of prostitute murders over more than two decades. Authorities there said they had linked another dead prostitute to the suspected killer — whose identity is not known — using DNA evidence. The one victim not connected to prostitution was involved in drugs.
    The homicides in Wisconsin occurred between 1986 and 2007 on the city's north side. Now, officers have submitted or resubmitted DNA samples from more than two dozen unsolved homicides to see whether they are connected.
    The West Mesa victims were likely killed and buried between 2003 and 2005, police said. They had all struggled with addiction and had arrest histories that included prostitution charges.
    Seven of the 11 women have been identified. They are: Victoria Chavez, Julie Nieto, Gina Michelle Valdez, Cinnamon Elks, Veronica Romero, Monica Candelaria and Doreen Marquez. Valdez was four months pregnant when she was killed and buried.
    Schultz said authorities are still working to identify the other four through DNA and dental records.

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