Every Netflix documentary about a serial killer offers one comfort – the killer has been caught and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. Unfortunately, the people of West Mesa did not get the same comfort. Have you ever heard of the West Mesa murders?
The serial killer, dubbed the West Mesa Bone Collector, was never caught or brought to justice. The police identified the victims of this serial killer, but the families never got closure. But what is the story behind these West Mesa murders, and why hasn’t it been solved yet?
Overview Of The Murders
The story of the West Mesa Murders is horrifyingly sad. On February 2, 2009, a woman walking her dog came across a bone on a site. She texted her sister to verify whether the bone was, in fact, human. After that, she reported her findings to the police department.
One report led to Albuquerque Police Department unearthing 11 shallow graves on a development site. While there had originally been development plans, it was all halted due to the murders.
Each of the graves contained a body of a woman. The victims were between 15 – 29 of age and linked to sex work, sex trafficking, or drugs of some kind. Even if they were not active participants while alive, the mere association seems to have made them a target.
After identifying the victims and making a few breakthroughs on the case, the police department seemed to lose interest. Even today, there is no killer held responsible for the West Mesa Murders.
Timeline Of The Murders
The West Mesa Murders are gruesome because of the number of victims and the timeline and implication of said timeline. If you are curious, take a look:
May 2003: Monica Candelaria reported missing
Aug 2003: Syllannia Edwards reported missing
Oct 2003: Doreen Marquez last seen
2004: Cinnamon Elks reported missing
Feb 204: Veronica Romero reported missing
Apr 2004: Evelyn Salazar and Jamie Barela reported missing
Aug 2004: Julie Nieto last seen
Oct 2004: Virginia Cloven last seen
Feb 2005: Michelle Valdez reported missing
Mar 2005: Victoria Chavez reported missing
Dec 2006: Lorenzo Montoya shot
February 2, 2009: Passerby finds the 1st bone
Feb 2009: 11 days after the passerby found the first bone, police arrest Joseph Blea
February 11, 2009: The 1st victim, Victoria Chavez, identified
January 26, 2010: Final victim, Jamie Barela, identified
2014: New detective Mark Manary takes over the case
2016: Detective Mark Manary remains the only detective on the case
Most of the victims were involved in sex work voluntarily or involuntarily. Despite being reported missing, police were unable to find the girls and bring them home. Even once the police found the bodies, identification seems to have taken a long time.
The suspects involved in the investigation either died of natural causes or were behind bars for other crimes. The victims of the West Mesa Bone Collector never got their justice.
Who Were The Victims?
The first pattern uncovered was about the victims themselves. All the victims were linked to sex work, sex trafficking, or drugs at the time of their disappearance. The sex work and drugs aspect of the case seems to have affected the resulting updates.
All the victims, but one, were from New Mexico and Hispanic. The only African-American victim – Edwards – was a runaway who had gotten involved in sex work. It was also later found out that Michelle Valdez was four months pregnant.
Apart from these details, there is little known about the deaths of the 11 victims. There are no updates about the West Mesa Murders on how they were killed or what led up to their deaths.
All The Suspects
During the investigation, there were multiple suspects. However, there were no convictions and nobody to who the charges could stick. So, despite the police having suspicions, they did not make any arrests.
Well, there was one arrest. Joseph Blea was arrested and served a 90-year prison sentence for his crimes from 1980-1990. He had a history of preying on young women, especially minors, and was in prison when the police found the bodies.
He was first arrested for violently kidnapping and beating his girlfriend. Later, when the bodies were unearthed, the police found a nursery name tag nearby. The tag was from a nursery that Blea frequented. However, apart from the circumstantial evidence found, there was nothing solid linking Blea to the West Mesa Murders.
Lorenzo Montoya had a similar history of beating and assaulting prostitutes. In 2006, he met a dancer, who he later strangled and was going to bury. The boyfriend of the victim found him and shot him. Incidentally, the odd murders seemed to end with the death of Lorenzo Montoya. Yet, he was never named the killer.
Any Updates On West Mesa Murders?
There was very little found in the way of evidence. A huge breakthrough in the case occurred when a 2004 satellite image of the gravesite showed tracks in the mud. Later, the name tag found in a nearby plant linking Joseph Blea to the crime also did not pan out. But why is the killer’s identity still a mystery?
Experts claim that there was never enough to push the police to investigate the gruesome killings. The town was extremely small and far removed. The people of Albuquerque were not bothered by the existence of the graves, let alone the thought of 11 murders.
The police seemed to lack the motivation to solve the murder of those they considered only prostitutes and drug addicts. Along with the lack of evidence, it is no wonder this gruesome case hasn’t come to an end.
Even today, there is no conclusive end. Many speculate on the identity of the killer. However, there have been no further developments. It is officially an unsolved case.
The West Mesa Murders aren’t just gruesome but utterly heartbreaking.
Eleven vulnerable women were struck down, and their killer is still unknown. There has been no relief for the families of the victims either.
While many have speculated about the killer, there is not much anybody can do after so long. So, that’s another cold case that is going to remain buried in the archives.