Body Count in N.M. Desert Rises to 10

Investigators unearth more remains from an Albuquerque construction site.

ByABC News
February 23, 2009, 7:21 PM

Feb. 23, 2009— -- 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.