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During the early stages of the investigation, detectives from New Mexico consulted with counterparts in El Paso, and cold case detectives from Las Cruces examined the West Mesa site looking for clues for their own cases, officials said.
According to autopsy reports, the medical examiner in Albuquerque reported "homicidal violence" as the cause of death for all 11 of the West Mesa victims.
More about the killings
Read the El Paso Times list of the women who were killed or remain missing. While police may not be saying much about the case, the families are receiving and discussing their own tips.
The manner in which they were killed was undetermined, and all of them were pronounced dead as of Feb. 2, 2009.
"Some acts of violence, such as strangulation or suffocation, may not leave any detectable injuries to skeletal remains and could not be ruled out by this investigation," the autopsy reports stated.
The victims were found within an area of the West Mesa that was 100 square-feet. Razing for development had begun at the site but was left unfinished nearly a year before a couple that lives near the site came across a human bone and called the police.
The site, which was fenced off, has a commanding view of downtown Albuquerque in the distance and stretches over an arroyo, which is why some of the remains were found in graves that varied in depth from 8 to 18 inches. No clothing or personal belongings, such a purse, were found on the remains.
"There was some fragmentation and postmortem damage caused by construction equipment prior to the discovery of the burial site and recovery efforts," according to the autopsy report for 32-year-old Doreen Marquez.
"Ms. Marquez had a history of multiple pregnancies and has two children," the report said. "She also had a history of illicit drug use and prostitution."
Five years ago, on Feb. 2, Christine Ross said she was walking through the site with her husband and their dog "Ruca" when they spotted a bone sticking out of the ground. The couple thought the bone was suspicious, and asked a nurse to look at a picture of it. After the nurse said it was human, the couple called police.
"I think about it constantly," Ross said. "I watched the excavations that went on for months. The investigators showed us the satellite pictures that were used to locate the graves. They looked at areas in the terrain that might be disturbed, and that’s how they located the bodies. Forensic specialists from the FBI were there as well."
Lupe Lopez-Haynes, an advocate for the victims’ families, said "The police didn’t find them. If it hadn’t been for the person who stumbled on the bones, the families would still be looking for their girls."
Looking back on what happened, Ross said, "I’m glad I had role in finding the missing women. This way the families could stop their searching and be able to give them a proper burial."
Anyone with information about the serial murders may contact Crime Stoppers at (505) 843-STOP, or the 118th Street Task Force (877) 765-8273
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6140. Research for this project was underwritten in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
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