11 women were killed and buried in the desert in the West Mesa murders in the year between 2002 to 2005 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The story of the West Mesa murders
It was in 2009, February 2nd, Christine Ross walked with her dog in Albuquerque. Her dog found a bone that resembled a thighbone. She was not sure that the bone was human but she guessed it could be. Therefore she took a picture of it and sent it to her sister, a registered nurse. She confirmed it as a human bone so Ross informed the police.
The investigators dug into the site and found that there was not just one person buried but they identified bodies of 11 girls and women. They spent weeks uncovering the 11 graves which had the remains of two teens, and nine adults, where a 22-year-old woman was four months pregnant. It was the most disturbing murder case the police had ever seen and it took a year for the medical examiners to identify the victims. They were the ones who were reported to be missing between the years 2003 to 2005. Most of them were females and were in the age group of 15 to 32.
One of the victims had links to sex work and this initially helped the police investigation and named the serial killer as “West Mesa Bone collector”. They identified that 10 of the victims were sex workers or victims of sex trafficking, and the 11th was a 15-year-old Jamie Barela who vanished with her cousin Salazar. They all were born and raised in New Mexico and were Hispanic.
There was only a little publicity on the case, and the degree of public fear was less. So that there was not much pressure to investigate in this case.
The FBI created profiles of the suspect and the police gathered information from the families of the victims and the other locals.
Barela was seen last at a family gathering. She and Salazar left for a park near the airport and it was when they went missing. Other victims vanished with few details because many of them have gone into sex works and others left their homes years before they died.
The West Mess bone collector targeted the prostitutes easily because they are often distanced from their relatives and no one cared about their disappearance. But then a lead came from satellite photos of the west mesa murders’ burial site. An image from 2004 showed a set of tire tracks that lead directly to the area, but by 2009 the development had erased them.
A detective called Mark Marany interviewed 200 hundred local women who had similar backgrounds and created a timeline for every suspect.
There was a suspect called Joseph Blea. His ex-wife contacted the police saying that her daughter found women’s clothing and jewelry in their home. The police encountered Blea nearly 140 times between 1990 and 2009 often in the drug heavy areas. Some electrical tapes and ropes were found in his car when he was arrested in 2003 and the police found him staking the sex workers after the West Mesa murders.
His cellmate said that Blea said that he knew many of the murdered women and he had hit one of them when she was trying to steal his money. But to confirm him as the west mesa murderer, there was not much evidence.
The other primary suspect was Lorenzo Montoya because he was known to pick up prostitutes and assault them. He beat his girlfriend by threatening to kill her and bury her in lime. In the year, 2006 Montoya met up with a dancer whom he strangled to death. He was killed by her boyfriend. Montoya suited the description of the west mess murderer but the exact killer was not confirmed.
The investigators were not able to detect the DNA at the burial site that provides a match to the killer. They couldn’t find the way how the girls die but they suspected that the cause of death was strangulation. The police lack the necessary incentive and are not much related to the victims. The police budget was less and there was little money and so many crimes happening.
Therefore the killer remains unknown and the mystery is unsolved.
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