Police are finally calling the excavation site in the SW Mesa of Albuquerque NM the burial ground of a serial killer.
Two weeks ago, hikers discovered a human bone while passing the newly dug up ground on a routine hike. The ground was being prepped for a new housing development, otherwise the bodies may never have been found.
After determining that the bones were in fact female human remains, police and local forensic anthropologists began to examine the area. As the days stretched into weeks, the body count grew. Still police were reluctant to call the burial ground the work of a serial killer, even after they found 6 different sets of remains. They claimed the only woman identified, Victoria Chavez, could have been killed by her boyfriend for all they knew. At the same time, speculation grew that all of the women were likely sex workers, including Chavez. The implication: their lives were worthless anyway.
Today, the story finally changed. A second woman, pregnant Gena Valdez, was identified among the growing number of remains. She too was homeless, had a drug history, and had engaged in prostitution. The similarities between the women and the graves could not longer be denied. Police admitted the graves were the work of a serial killer targeting sex workers. They also admitted that both Valdez and Chavez had been missing since 2004 and 2005 respectively and were on a list of 18 women who had gone missing around the same time period. One of their new suspects had pictures of several of the women on that list in his trailer when he died of natural causes earlier this year.
12 women’s bodies have been found in total. All buried in the same area. All of them were naked and had no identifying documents. The worst part, is that the women were also all buried in shallow graves. Valdez’s grave was less than 18 inches down according to an ABC broadcast. Had the police taken the growing list of missing women more seriously when it was happening, they might have found this grave site before so many women died. Instead, no one considered the reports might be related nor did they search the South West Mesa or other rural areas for remains b/c all of the missing women had histories that included drugs and sex work and some of them were homeless. If the suspect with the photos is found guilty, this too begs the question as to why he was not considered earlier. People had to have seen him with the women and a search of his trailer could have uncovered the photos of the missing women. Instead, the women on the margins were left to fend for themselves, unaware they were targets, while this man lived out his life.
What makes a life worth less than any other? For women, it begins with gender, but almost always ends with things like sex work or homelessness. The same dismissals go on around the world as if women give up the right to life when they become physically and economically expoitable by a system that ultimately serves the sexual desires and capitalist fantasies of men. There is no similar devaluation for men who frequent sex workers, if they are killed, police look for the killers and they lock them up. How many more crosses have to be stuck in the road in Juarez, Guatemala, New Mexico, and around the world?
Police and forensic anthropologists are still excavating the site. There will be no way of knowing how long the serial killer was active until all of the bodies are found.
Be safe Nueva Mexicanas, my heart is with you.
for more on Victoria Chavez read here.