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APD Honors West Mesa Victims on 13th Anniversary

A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest
February 02, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE – On the 13th anniversary of the discovery of the remains of 11 women found on the city’s West Mesa, the Albuquerque Police Department honored the victim’s whose lives were taken. The department also reminded the public to submit any information they may have regarding this case.

On February 2, 2009 the remains of 11 women were discovered near the intersection of 118th Street and Dennis Chavez Boulevard on the southwest mesa of Albuquerque. The cause of death was determined to be homicidal violence and a task force was formed to investigate the deaths.

This is a poster of the women whose remains were found along the west mesa in February of 2009.Tips continue to be documented, vetted, and added to the tip-line database. Suspects have been identified and numerous resources have been used to conduct background on them. During the investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigations performed a crime analysis in the early stages of the investigation and again in 2013 which included investigative suggestions that have been followed up on.

“This is someone who had access to the women, this is somebody who was very comfortable with the place that he buried the girls, had concealment, it’s someone who preys, who’s out there… who’s a predator,” said Investigator Ida Lopez. “These women were loved, each one has a unique story and their families want answers, and we are dedicated to finding those answers.”

To date, more than 1,184 tips have been documented and approximately 200 women with arrest records for drugs and prostitution have been interviewed. The case remains open and active and tips continue to come into the tip-line.

“The FBI got involved in the West Mesa homicide investigation soon after the first bodies were found, and we plan to stick with it until this mystery is solved,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque FBI Division Raul Bujanda. “Our investigators are working with the Albuquerque Police Department, constantly reviewing the evidence to see if new technology not available at the time of the crime will allow us to develop additional information. The FBI also wants to remind the public that we are offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to identification and conviction of person or persons responsible for these crimes. We promise the families and friends of the victims that we will spare no effort to give them the closure and justice they deserve.”

Currently, the West Mesa Task Force is conducting a tip audit of all the tips that have been received to ensure each tip has been worked to the fullest. Cold Case homicides are also being reviewed by the Task Force to see if there are any case by case similarities to the 118th Street victims.

“We are exhausting all efforts to solve this case and working with other units to bring as many eyes on the investigation as possible,” said Chief Harold Medina. “13 years is a long time to wait for justice and we are committed to finding answers for all the families who lost loved ones to this tragedy.”

As an additional effort to draw attention to the case, the West Mesa murders have been featured in the 6th episode of the Duke City Case Files. The video, which can be found here, includes an interview with Investigator Ida Lopez who initially identified the women were missing before being found in 2009. There is also an interview with Cold Case Detective and former homicide Sargent Liz Thomson and Eleanor Griego, the mother of Julie Nieto, whose remains were found on the west mesa. The video has been shared on all of APD’s social media platforms in hopes to draw more attention to the case.

“If anyone out there knows what happened, please let us know, please give us the piece we’re looking for,” said Eleanor Griego, the mother of Julie Nieto. “I’m not going to give up looking for them, everyone is looking for answers, and I don’t want this to ever happen to anyone else, it was the hardest thing any parent can go through.”

In 2018 two extensive searches were done, one of which used ground penetrating radar based on a tip received in search of evidence of the missing women. The other search was conducted near the original dig site which was deemed to be an ancient burial ground. Then, in 2021, another extensive search was completed based on a tip that came into the Task Force.

“It is our commitment to each one of the victims and their families to never give up on finding answers and getting justice. Right now, we don’t have all the answers, but we are not going to quit and we’re not going to give up on these women or their families,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “We need to tell their story, even though it’s a painful one, as we ask our communities for help. It’s time for anyone with information to come forward and bring the perpetrator hiding in darkness into the light.”  

This is a poster of the women who remain missing and may be linked to the West Mesa case.Not only are investigators continuing to investigate the West Mesa case, but there are eight women that remain missing. The backgrounds of these women are similar to those of the women found at the site along 118th Street. These cases also continue to be investigated.

In June of 2020, the City of Albuquerque dedicated a park to the victims of the West Mesa murders. The park was erected on top of the site of the burials and is complete with the names of the 11 women found and an engraved stone dedicated to the unborn child of Michelle Valdez, one of the women whose remains were found at the site.

“Today we remember the victims that suffered here and the investigation that would later identify 11 women and one unborn child, who are now honored at the Women’s Memorial Park” said Councilor Klarissa Pena.  “These women and their families have not found justice and we hope today’s remembrance will help bring new tips and information to help this ongoing investigation.”

The Albuquerque Police Department, the FBI and the families of the women found on the west mesa have contributed to a reward of up to $100,000 for information that leads to an arrest and successful prosecution in this case.

Anyone with information on the West Mesa murders is urged to contact (505)-768-2450 or information can reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers at (505)-843-STOP. You can also contact Investigator Ida Lopez at [email protected].