West Mesa murders
Location Albuquerque, New Mexico
Date Discovered Feb. 2, 2009
The West Mesa Murders refer to the remains of 11 women found buried in 2009 in the desert on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico. No suspects have been identified in the case and a serial killer is believed to be responsible.
On February 2, 2009, a woman walking a dog found a human bone on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico metropolitan area, and reported it to police. As a result of the subsequent police investigation, authorities discovered the remains of 11 women and an unborn fetus buried in the area. All the women were young; most were Hispanic, and most were involved with drugs and prostitution.
Police suspect that the bodies were all buried by the same person or persons, and may be the work of a serial killer sometimes referred to as the West Mesa Bone Collector. Authorities also believe that the murders are closely linked to the annual state fair, which attracts large numbers of prostitutes to the area in the fall.
The remains discovered in 2009 were identified as those of the following women, all of whom disappeared between 2003 and 2005:
Monica Candelaria, 22
Victoria Chavez, 26
Virginia Cloven, 24
Syllania Edwards, 15
Cinnamon Elks, 32
Doreen Marquez, 24
Julie Nieto, 24
Veronica Romero, 28
Evelyn Salazar, 27
Michelle Valdez, 22
Syllania Edwards, a 15 year-old runaway from Oklahoma, was the only African American, and the only victim from out-of-state. Michelle Valdez was four months pregnant at the time of her death.
On December 9, 2010, Albuquerque police released six photos of seven unidentified women who may also be linked to West Mesa. Some of the women appear to be unconscious, and many share the same physical characteristics as the original 11 victims. The following day the police released an additional photograph of another woman; this woman was subsequently identified by family members, who reported that she had died of natural causes several years ago. On December 13, 2010, police reported that two of the women in the photos had been identified as alive, and could have valuable information if they can be located. Police would not say how or where they had obtained the photos.
Two men who initially attracted police attention in connection with the murders were Fred Reynolds and Lorenzo Montoya. Reynolds was a pimp who knew one of the missing women and reportedly had photos of missing prostitutes; he died of natural causes in January 2009. Lorenzo Montoya lived less than two miles from the burial site; in 2006 there were reportedly tire tracks leading from his trailer to the site. In December 2006, Montoya strangled a teenage prostitute at his trailer; he was shot to death by the prostitute's boyfriend.
In August 2010, police searched several properties in Joplin, Missouri associated with a local photographer and businessman in connection with the West Mesa cases.They confiscated "tens of thousands" of photos from the man, who reportedly used to visit the state fair in Albuquerque.
In December 2010, convicted Colorado serial killer Scott Lee Kimball stated that he was being investigated for the West Mesa murders; he denies killing the women.
No official suspects have ever been named in connection with the murders. A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.