West Mesa

KUNM has been reporting on the West Mesa investigation since the beginning. Check out all of our coverage below. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

There are headlines around the country about officers abusing their power, coercing, assaulting or trafficking sex workers. Not being able to trust police enough to report violent experiences is part of what makes people especially vulnerable to serial killers and rapists. Now, 10 years after a mass grave was discovered on the West Mesa, the Albuquerque Police Department is trying to rebuild trust and stop that from happening again. 

Three detectives are still working a combined 40 hours each week to solve the murders of nine woman and two teen girls whose remains were discovered on Albuquerque’s West Mesa in 2009.

KUNM spoke with Lt. Scott Norris, who took over the violent crimes section of the Albuquerque Police Department about a month ago and is now overseeing the investigation.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It’s no secret that sex workers often don’t trust law enforcement and don’t ask police for help after incidents of violence. Officers around the U.S. are themselves arrested for trafficking, raping and abusing people on the street. Here in New Mexico, those stories pop up, too. And people who do that kind of work here say there’s a feeling that it’s either not safe, or that police won’t respond well if they report they’ve been attacked or assaulted. That can mean serial offenders go unchecked.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It was 10 years ago, on Feb. 2, that a woman walking her dog on Albuquerque’s West Mesa found a bone that turned out to be human. Eventually, the bones of 11 people were discovered there—two teen girls and nine women.

Family members and advocates gathered this weekend at the site to remember those who were killed, and to call for compassion for people living and working on Albuquerque’s streets.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

UPDATE: The Office of the Medical Investigator determined that the bones construction workers found are ancient and not related to the gravesite discovered in 2009.

Wikimedia Commons via CC

Several branches of law enforcement in the Albuquerque area participated in a sting last month that targeted people who were trafficking minors for sex. But the operation netted adult sex workers, and the agencies took different approaches to dealing with them.

West Mesa Murders in MS. Magazine

Apr 27, 2011

Albuquerque, NM – Local freelance journalist Laura Paskus has an article on the West Mesa murders in the Spring issue of MS. Magazine.

Releasing Photos of Unidentified Women

Dec 22, 2010
absolute_nt via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Albuquerque, NM – Photos of unidentified women released recently by Albuquerque police may have been disturbing to some. Officials say the women might have information about the West Mesa murders investigation. Police say they want to make sure the women are safe, but media critics say the images dehumanize women.

Photo: Laura Paskus

In our series on the West Mesa murders we brought you an update on the investigation and we’ve taken a look at media coverage of the victims. Now, we hear from a woman has overcome some of the same challenges the West Mesa victims were struggling with - poverty, drug addiction, and incarceration.

Marci Torres doesn’t smile a whole lot and maybe that’s not so surprising. She’s experienced a lot of sorrow. Torres said maybe that’s why she wants to go to school to be a mortician.

We brought you the first story in this series about the status of the West Mesa murders investigation and how families of the victims are coping. No suspects have been named, but Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz says the case is open and ongoing.

West Mesa Murders Series Part I: Still No Suspects Named

Sep 15, 2010
Photo: Laura Paskus

It’s been over a year and a half since the discovery of the remains of 11 women buried on Albuquerque’s West Mesa and still no one knows who killed them or why.

Some of the victims’ families remain convinced there are more remains to be found of missing women.  Other family members have started to move on and rebuild their lives after years of uncertainty.