A serial killer probably was responsible for murdering nearly a dozen young women in New Mexico between 2004 and 2005, Albuquerque police said.
The victim's bodies were discovered last year in Albuquerque's West Mesa, before the area was developed into a residential neighborhood. Except for one, all the victims were from Albuquerque.
Albuquerque police Sgt. Trish Hoffman said in a telephone interview that the serial murders targeting young women apparently stopped in that city.
Although police have scrutinized several suspects, no one has been charged in connection with the slayings. Police said they believe the killer could be anywhere, including the El Paso area, which is about 250 miles south of Albuquerque.
"The killer could be anywhere," Hoffman said. "We do not know who it is, if he is dead or if he is in another city or state, and we have not ruled out any suspects."
NBC TV's "Dateline" featured the West Mesa murders in a two-hour special on Dec. 10. According to the TV program, FBI profilers told Albuquerque police that the killer was a white or Hispanic male in his 30s.
Albuquerque police also released photos of still-missing women who are similar to the ones who were slain, and are asking for the public's help to identify and find them.
El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said El Paso investigators are aware of the West Mesa murders but do not suspect serial murders are taking place here.
"Our Crimes Against Persons detectives have
not seen these type of serial murders since the Northeast El Paso murders of 1987," Petry said.
The El Paso serial murders of young women in 1987 ended with the arrest of El Pasoan David Leonard Wood. He was granted a stay of execution pending the outcome of his latest appeal. El Paso police linked Wood to the victims but he denied killing them.
West Miami police Capt. Nelson Andreu, an expert on serial killers, said finding people who commit serial murders is not an easy task for law enforcement.
"They tend to be cunning," Andreu said. "They really don't have a motive for murder. Serial killers also don't stop because they can't stop the drive they have that compels them to kill."
Though a serial killer might have an ideal victim in mind, he or she will often settle for a victim who is available, and that usually means people involved in risky lifestyles. They may also prey on children because they make easy victims.
"Most of them enjoy the media attention they receive," Andreu said. "The ones who collect items from their victims - hair, clothing or jewelry - use them to relive the murders and obtain some kind of sexual gratification from this."
When serial killers bury their victims, the bodies may deteriorate to the point that forensic experts find it harder to collect useful evidence.
Authorities in Juárez also reported unusual murders of young women beginning in 1993. Women's bodies were found in mass graves in 1995, 1996, 2001 and 2002-2003.
Retired FBI profiler Robert Ressler and FBI profilers from Quantico, Va., who examined dozens of files of the Juárez murders, theorized that two or more serial killers were at work, but Mexican officials rejected this theory.
Petry said, "The Southwest seems to attract these kinds of killers. But, just like with the Albuquerque police, we have access to the FBI profilers if the need arises."
Other convicted serial killers with ties to the El Paso border region include:
# Angel Maturino Resendiz: Known as the "Railway Killer," he confessed to multiple murders in Texas and other states. He surrendered to a Texas Ranger in 1999 at the El Paso border, and was executed in Huntsville in 2006.
# Ricardo "Richard" Leyva Muñoz Ramirez: Called the "Night Stalker," the former Jefferson High School student was convicted in 1989 of several murders in Southern California; he is on death row in that state.
# Henry Lee Lucas: Confessed to killing hundreds of people across the United States but recanted the confessions. Was charged in the 1983 death of Lower Valley resident Librada Apodaca, a relative of former Sheriff Chief Deputy Jimmy Apodaca. The charge was dismissed after his confession was thrown out. Then Gov. George W. Bush commuted Lucas' death sentence to life in prison; he died of natural causes in 2001.
# Pedro Padilla Flores: A convicted serial killer in Juárez who confessed to killing several people during the 1980s and tossing their bodies into the Rio Grande. He was arrested in 1986, escaped later and has not been found.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6140.