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 location of the "West Mesa Murders" burial site.

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

The authorities believe that an unidentified serial killer called the "West Mesa Bone Collector" used this exact spot to bury eleven of his victims.

On February 2nd, 2009, a 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.

When Christine received confirmation that it was 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 a month, forensic investigators dug up the area and uncovered the skeletal remains of eleven women and an unborn child.

All of the victims had disappeared at some point between 2003 and 2005.

Although most of them had a history 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, both of their remains were found alongside each other at this site on the West Mesa of Albuquerque.

Remarkably, the bodies would have remained buried for decades had it not been for the collapse of the US housing market, which ground construction to a halt.

In 2006, the site in question had been covered over and prepared for development. However, these plans were scuppered after the housing bubble popped.

Originally, the killer's burial ground was situated on the bank of an arroyo, which is a naturally-occurring stream bed that forms in arid climates.

When this arroyo was covered over by the construction firm, rainwater could no longer drain away from the area. As a result, the plot began to flood during heavy downpours.

Following complaints from neighbors, the developers agreed to build a wall that channeled storm water into a retention basin, which is an artificial pond that holds excess water.

However, this rentention basin was built 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 site until the victims' bones started to resurface.

Then, on a cool morning in February of 2009, Christine Ross and her dog "Ruca" discovered a human femur bone that would kickstart 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.

One of the strongest suspects in the case is a gardener named Joseph Blea, who is currently serving a 90-year prison sentence for four sexual assaults.

Blea is the prime suspect in a series of rapes that occurred in Albuquerque during the 1980s. However, he wasn't connected to the crimes until 2009, when an old sample from one of the rape test kits proved to be a match with his DNA.

Although Blea's DNA was discovered on the pants of a sex worker who was found murdered in 1985, he could not be charged with the crime because the statute of limitations had passed.

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

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

Despite all of this, no one has ever been charged with the West Mesa murders.

Blea has denied involvement in the killings.

To this day, the case remains unsolved.

West Mesa Murders burial site.

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

GPS Coordinates.

The GPS coordinates for the site are as follows.

  • Latitude: 35.036797
  • Longitude: -106.751369

Map.

Open 35.036797, -106.751369 in Google Maps to view directions on how to get there.

Address.

The full address for this location is:

Amole Mesa Ave SW
Albuquerque
New Mexico
NM 87121
United States

Directions.

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

Photos.

Photos of the site and other related images.


Memorial Park.

Memorial Park

This Google Street View image of the area 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.

2011.

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.

Victims.

West Mesa 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.

2002.

2002

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 bodies were found.

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

Joseph Blea.

Joseph Blea

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

Circumstantial evidence also connects him to the crime scene, as a plant tag for a Spearmint Juniper tree was traced back to a nursery that he 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 prostitution.

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. Following 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 for 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.

2006.

2006

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

This location belongs to the following categories.

Crime ScenesSerial KillersUnresolved Cases
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