The West Mesa Murders burial site

Crime Scene Location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

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The West Mesa Murders burial site

This is the West Mesa Murders burial site.

It is situated in the southwestern suburbs of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

During the 2000s, an unidentified serial killer called the "West Mesa Bone Collector" buried eleven of his victims at this location.

On February 2nd, 2009, a local woman named Christine Ross was walking in the area when her dog picked up a large bone that was protruding from the ground. Thinking that the bone looked strange, she decided to send a photograph of it to her sister, who worked as a registered nurse.

After being told that it looked like a human femur (thigh bone), she immediately called 911.

Following the discovery, the police carried out a thorough examination of the site. Over the course of the next month, forensic investigators dug up the area and uncovered the skeletal remains of eleven women and an unborn child.

All of the victims disappeared between 2003 and 2005.

Although most of them had histories of prostitution and drug abuse, this was not the case with Jamie Barela. Barela was a 15-year-old with no prior arrests. Judging by the details of her disappearance, it seems as though she was abducted alongside her older cousin, Evelyn Salazar, who did have a history of prostitution.

In April of 2004, the two cousins mysteriously vanished after they left a family gathering together and walked to a nearby park. Almost five years later, their skeletal remains were found buried at this site on the West Mesa of Albuquerque.

Remarkably, the bodies may have remained hidden for decades had it not been for the collapse of the US housing market. By 2006, the site in question had been covered over and prepared for development. However, these plans fell through after the housing bubble popped and construction ground to a halt.

Originally, the killer's burial ground was situated on the bank of an arroyo, which is a naturally occurring stream bed that forms in desert climates. When the construction firm covered this arroyo, rainwater could no longer drain away from the area. As a result, the plot of land began to flood during heavy downpours.

After receiving complaints from neighbors, the developers agreed to build a wall that channeled storm water into a retention basin. However, this retention basin was situated in the approximate area of the burial site.

From that point on, Mother Nature got to work. In the months that followed, rainwater steadily eroded the ground until the victims' bones started to resurface.

Then, on a cool February morning in 2009, Christine Ross and her dog Ruca discovered a human femur bone that sparked one of the largest murder investigations in New Mexico history.

Sadly, despite hundreds of interviews, no arrests have ever been made. As time wore on and the tips dried up, the 40-man taskforce dwindled down to just one detective.

There are currently two main suspects in the case, both of whom are no longer a threat to society.

The first suspect is Lorenzo Montoya, who was shot dead in December of 2006. Montoya was gunned down by the boyfriend of a sex worker that he had strangled to death in his trailer.

The second suspect is a gardener named Joseph Blea. In 2015, Blea was sentenced to 36 years in prison for a rape that occurred during the 1980s. He has denied any involvement in the killings.

Although the West Mesa case remains unsolved, the Albuquerque Police Department is confident that the killer is no longer walking the streets.

Further information is available in the "Photos" section below.

West Mesa burial site location

Below, you will find the address and the GPS coordinates for this location.

GPS coordinates

The latitude and longitude coordinates for the site are:

35.036797, -106.751369


To view directions on how to get there, you can use the Google Maps shortcut below:

Google Maps Link


The full address for this location is:

Amole Mesa Ave SW
New Mexico
NM 87121
United States


The site is about 2 miles west of Coors Boulevard in the southwestern suburbs of Albuquerque.


Photos of the site and other related images.

Memorial Park

Memorial Park

Image source: Google Maps

The Google Street View image above was taken in April of 2022. These days, the plot is home to a memorial park that is dedicated to the victims.

The project broke ground during the summer of 2018.

West Mesa burial site

West Mesa burial site

This image shows what the burial site looked like back in 2011. It was taken two years after the victims' remains were discovered.

On the right, you can see the retention basin.

West Mesa murder victims

West Mesa murder victims

All of the victims disappeared between 2003 and 2004. However, there is a possibility that some of them were murdered in 2005.

The killer targeted women between the ages of 15 and 32.

Many of the victims lived high-risk lifestyles and had a history of prostitution.

It appears as though his first victim was 22-year-old Monica Candelaria. The last known sighting of Candelaria was on May 15th, 2003.

The last victim was Michelle Valdez, who was also 22. She was last seen on September 22nd, 2004. Valdez was four months pregnant at the time of her murder. The skeletal remains of her unborn baby were also discovered at the burial site.

Jamie Barela (15) had no prior arrests. Barela and her older cousin, Evelyn Salazar (26), vanished after leaving a family gathering in April of 2004.

Barela was the last victim to be identified.

Syllannia Edwards was a 15-year-old runaway from Ohio. Previously, she had been in foster care. The authorities believe that Edwards had become involved in prostitution and that she was working along Interstate 40, which runs through Albuquerque.



This aerial photograph was taken in April of 2002, which was roughly one year before the "West Mesa Bone Collector" started burying his victims at the site.

Back then, it was half a mile south of the closest neighborhood (Cartagena Avenue).

During the mid-2000s, housing developments started to encroach on the area. As a result, the killer was forced to abandon it.

His decision to abandon this site four years before its discovery suggests that he might have started burying his victims elsewhere. Notably, at least seven women went missing from the Albuquerque area between 2005 and 2006.

Tire marks

Aerial image West Mesa Murders

This aerial photograph was taken on March 23rd, 2004. It shows tire tracks on the southern side of the arroyo, which is where the West Mesa victims were found.

Notably, these tracks are not present in the 2002 photo.



By 2006, the land had been platted for residential development.

Still missing

Still missing

Eight women who lived similar lifestyles to the West Mesa victims are still missing from the Albuquerque area.

The women in question are Anna Vigil, Felipa Gonzales, Shawntell Waites, Nina Herron, Vanessa Reed, Jillian Ortiz, Martha Jo Lucher, and Anna Peebles.

Notably, most of them disappeared between 2005 and 2006, which is just after the killer seemingly abandoned the West Mesa burial site.

When construction encroached on the killer's original site, he may have decided to move further afield.

This raises the possibility that he started burying his victims elsewhere.

Anyone with information about these missing women is being asked to call 505-768-2450.

Joseph Blea

Joseph Blea

A gardener named Joseph Blea is considered a strong suspect in the case. In 2015, he was sentenced to 36 years in prison for a rape that he committed in the 1980s.

During the examination of the West Mesa burial site, the forensic team uncovered a plastic identification tag for a Spearmint Juniper tree. After tracking down its origin, investigators learned that it came from a plant nursery that Blea often did business with.

Blea was well known to local law enforcement, as they had encountered him more than 100 times over a 20-year period. Most of these encounters occurred in areas that had a reputation for sex work.

When he first became a suspect in the case, a surveillance team tailed him and noted that he appeared to be circling around the streets and stalking sex workers.

His luck finally ran out when he was arrested for aggravated assault following a domestic dispute at his house. After his arrest, his DNA was entered into the CODIS database system. A few months later, the system connected him with two violent crimes that took place during the 1980s.

One was the 1985 murder of a sex worker. The other was the rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1989.

Sadly, he could not be charged with the murder because the statute of limitations had passed.

Although the police had enough evidence to immediately arrest him and charge him with rape, they decided to hold off for a while.

By the time the DNA match was made, Blea had already become a suspect in the West Mesa murders. As a result, investigators chose to delay the execution of the warrant and continue tailing him.

When the police finally executed the warrant and searched his house, they discovered underwear and jewelry that did not belong to his wife.

Lorenzo Montoya

Lorenzo Montoya

Lorenzo Montoya is also considered by many to be a strong suspect in the West Mesa murders. However, judging by recent interviews, it seems as though the authorities have grown less confident that he was involved.

In December of 2006, the 39-year-old contacted an escort named Shericka Hill, whose ad he had seen listed on the back of a local magazine. The pair met in person during the early hours of December 17th, 2006, and agreed to rendezvous at Montoya's trailer on Blake Road.

Hill showed up at the mobile home shortly afterwards. However, unbeknownst to Montoyo, she was driven to the trailer park by her pimp and boyfriend, Federick Williams.

During the "meeting", Williams remained parked out of sight and waited for Hill to finish her "work".

One hour later, he called his girlfriend to see what was taking so long. After receiving no answer, he decided to drive around the trailer park.

At some point during his search, he encountered Montoyo, who was reportedly carrying Hill's body. Following a short confrontation, a gunbattle broke out between the pair, and Montoyo was fatally wounded.

When the police arrived at the scene, they saw that Hill had been restrained with duct tape and strangled to death. In the trunk of Montoyo's vehicle was a plastic bag containing her clothes and personal belongings.

It is believed that Williams happened upon Montoyo while he was in the process of disposing of Hill's remains.

Although the disappearances of sex workers stopped following Montoyo's death, it seems as though the authorities have cooled on him as a potential suspect.

During a search of the trailer, they found homemade video tapes that featured a number of different sex workers. However, none of them were identified as the West Mesa murder victims.

Furthermore, a forensic examination of the living room carpet failed to find any trace of the women's DNA.

When investigators looked into his financial records, they were unable to find any transactions linking him to the victims' disappearances.

This location belongs to the following categories:

Crime ScenesSerial KillersUnsolved Cases

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