Friday, November 13, 2009
Eighth West Mesa Murder Victim Identified
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
Officials are "cautiously optimistic" that Syllannia Edwards may provide the final bread crumbs on the trail to the most prolific killer in Albuquerque history.
Edwards on Wednesday became the eighth of the 11 West Mesa murder victims to be identified, and she does not fit the profile of the other women, officials said. She was 15 years old when she was reported missing from Lawton, Okla., in August 2003, officials said. She was black and had no known ties to Albuquerque.
The other women found buried in shallow graves near 118th and Dennis Chavez SW earlier this year were in their 20s and 30s. They were local women who knew one another and whose lives had intersected through substance abuse and prostitution. They were white or Hispanic.
"When you have a case like this with a serial killer, there is sometimes just one oddball piece of the puzzle that doesn't make any sense," said one official who is familiar with the investigation. "But we're hoping (Edwards) will be crucial to solving this case, crucial in breaking it wide open. The other (victims) all kind of blended into the landscape. But (Edwards) may be unique enough to really help the investigation out."
Detectives spent all day Wednesday and Thursday trying to sort out when Edwards came to Albuquerque, who might have brought her here and who may have known her.
Police have narrowed their list of suspects in the case to a "small handful." Numerous search warrants have been served in the course of the investigation, including some in the past few weeks. All the warrants have been sealed, and investigators won't discuss what's been found.
Edwards has been listed as an "endangered runaway" on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children since her disappearance.
She had been in foster care in Oklahoma, officials said. She had not seen her mother since she was 5, and she never knew her father.
In late April, police released a photograph of an acrylic fingernail that was found with Edwards' remains. Investigators hoped the unique work done on the nail would help identify her.
And, a few weeks ago, forensic experts completed a sketch of Edwards' face based on skeletal reconstruction.
Finally, Wendy Honeyfield at the Office of the Medical Investigator was able to identify Edwards through dental records.
Nearly seven months had passed since authorities last identified one of the victims. Now, three of the 11 remain unidentified.