Serial Killer – The West Mesa Bone Collector
While finding a mass grave with 11 decomposed corpses may sound like a chapter from a horror fiction novel, a woman and her dog stumbled upon this very scene while walking in West Mesa, an area outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque police spend weeks recovering the bodies, which were found scattered across a large piece of land that was owned by an area home developer. Nearly a year later, the victims were identified, and police believed that they had stumbled across a serial killer. Soon the mass grave was dubbed the “West Mesa boneyard,” and the killer was given the unofficial name of the “West Mesa Bone Collector.”
Eleven women were discovered in the West Mesa boneyard in 2009 and they are all believed to have been murdered sometime between 2003 and 2005 by the same serial killer. Most of the women had a Latina or Caucasian background, and only one African American victim was found. The victims were all thought to have drug use problems, strained family relations, or ties to prostitution. The victims included:
- Jamie Barela – Age 15
- Monica Candelaria – Age 22
- Victoria Chavez – Age 26
- Virginia Cloven – Age 24
- Syllania Edwards – Age 15
- Cinnamon Elks – Age 32
- Doreen Marquez – Age 24
- Julie Nieto – Age 24
- Veronica Romero – Age 28
- Evelyn Salazar – Age 27
- Michelle Valdez – Age 22. Michelle was also four months pregnant when she was murdered.
While these are the only victims identified to be linked to the West Mesa serial killer, Albuquerque police think the same serial killer may have been responsible for the deaths of several other missing women who have never been found.
Through the years, police have chased multiple leads and had several suspects. Originally, the police investigated two men, Lorenzo Montoya and Fred Reynolds. Montoya lived close to the burial site and Reynolds was a pimp, reportedly possessed photos of some of the missing women, and knew one of the victims. Several properties in Missouri were searched, since the properties were associated with a local businessman and photographer who had a connection to West Mesa. This search resulted in the recovery of thousands of photos from this man, who was known to visit the Albuquerque state fair in the past.
Officially, no suspects have ever been named, and it’s believed that this serial killer is still out there somewhere. It’s possible that the killer has died, moved, or continued his killing spree unchecked. Unfortunately, it’s chillingly possible that more victims are out there in another mass grave, and someone may stumble across it in the future. As of now, there is a $100,000 reward for anyone that can help solve the murders.