Body Count in N.M. Desert Rises to 10

Investigators searching an Albuquerque, N.M., construction site discovered the skeletal remains of four more people today, including those of an unidentified woman and her fetus, police said.

In the three weeks since a woman stumbled upon some bones while walking her dog, police say they have discovered the bones of 10 people at the site, and they are trying to identify them and figure out who put them there.

On Feb. 17, one set of remains was identified as Victoria Chavez, 24, a prostitute last seen by her family in 2003.

It was Chavez's skeleton, along with partial remains of another, that touched off a massive search for more human remains in what is slated to become a new housing development.

Police said they are monitoring a list of missing prostitutes compiled by the missing person's unit. Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz told The Associated Press today that detectives are looking at suspects, but it's too premature to discuss them.

Chavez, 24, lived a hard life, logging arrests for prostitution and drugs. But in the months before her disappearance she had lived at home, working at a local burger joint and thinking about a career as a nurse.

"I was in denial," her mother, Mary Gutierrez, told of the day she learned the bones were her daughter's. "I said, 'You must be wrong.'"

When police responded to the dogwalking woman's report, they began digging and found more bones. And the results surprised police -- they came from two different people, including Chavez. About 48 hours later, bones from a third person were found several yards away.

Since then, police and forensics experts have been at the site every day, searching the area mostly by hand and using rakes and shovels. The area totals about 92 acres, though the search has been narrowed to a few specific areas.

Police have pulled up satellite records from 2003 onward and have narrowed the search, for now, using old dirt trails that have long since been plowed over.

Albuquerque Police Officer Nadine Hamby told ABC News the area was sometimes used in the past as a place to dump trash or dead coyotes. Police have also found buried pets, including dogs and rabbits since they began searching the site.

"We found a whole Noah's Ark out there," she said.

No Suspect, Only Speculation

So far, the only full skeleton found has been Chavez's, Hamby said. The process of identifying the other two -- investigators are unsure yet even if they're male or female -- could take months or longer, she said, depending on whether there is usable DNA or dental records.

The bones were believed to have been unearthed by excavation work in the area, Hamby said, both to prepare the land for construction and to dig culverts to divert rainwater away from houses already built in the neighborhood.

It remains unclear who owns the property where police are digging. The developer was identified by police as Longford Homes, though it's company spokeswoman Susan Berger said Longford does not own that lot.

'There'll Never Be Closure'

Chavez's family, heartbroken and still trying to process the news of her death, is hoping for answers.

Gutierrez said her daughter was funny and outgoing and loved to tease family members. She said she knew her daughter was leading a dangerous life but that she learned the extent of her daughter's activities only after talking to police.

Chavez, she said, "got caught up in the world with the wrong crowd," Gutierrez said. "Things happened, but she never brought it into my house."

Gutierrez said her daughter lived with her for eight months before her disappearance.

"She was getting clean," she said. "She was getting her life together."

Gutierrez said she last saw her daughter on a night the whole family was supposed to go out together. Chavez, she said, got a call from a boyfriend and told her mom she'd meet up with them later that night. She never showed up.

Gutierrez said that when her daughter didn't come home, she assumed she'd gone back to her wild life.

"I thought, in due time -- she's done this before -- she'll call me," Gutierrez said. But that call never came and in March 2004, Gutierrez reported her daughter missing.

There are 24 adults listed as missing in Albuquerque. Hamby said police will continue canvassing the area until they are confident there are no more remains to be found there.

But knowing now where Chavez has been hasn't helped the family heal. Her daughters, now 12 and 13, are living with Gutierrez's sister.

"There'll never be closure on something like this," she said. "I want justice. I want to find out who did this to her. And how she died."