- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Police on Friday identified the remains of two more women among several bodies found in a desert mass grave west of Albuquerque.

Police Chief Ray Schultz said the bodies of Monica Candelaria and Veronica Romero, both of Albuquerque, were the latest identified among the remains of 11 adult bodies and one fetus. Police previously had said they found 13 bodies.

Police already had identified the bodies of Cinnamon Elks, Julie Nieto, Michelle Valdez and Victoria Chavez, all of whom disappeared in 2004. A fetus was found with Valdez’s remains.

Police had been excavating a 92-acre site since February, when a hiker discovered a human bone. They had said they believe the remains were buried by one person.

Detectives also are reviewing cases involving dozens of women who were suspected of being drug addicts and prostitutes and were reported missing over the last two decades, in particular 16 women who reported missing between 2001 and 2006.

The six women whose remains had been identified were among that those cases.

Schultz said both Candelaria and Romero had prior arrests for prostitution. Candelaria was 21 when she was reported missing in May 2003, and Romero was 26 when she was reported missing in February 2004.

Schultz said the process of identifying the remains was made difficult because many bones had been broken by heavy construction equipment used previously on the site for development, while others had been exposed to the elements.

“We think some of the remains were misidentified because of environmental conditions that were placed upon those remains,” Schultz said. “Some of the bones look a little bit different and a little unusual because of water, because of exposure to air and because of the weight of the dirt and the weight of the construction equipment.”

He said the identifications were being assisted with DNA evidence through the University of North Texas’ identification center and verifications by the Office of the Medical Examiner.

The police have yet to identify a suspect, and Schultz said his department “will look at every possible direction, and we will follow every possible lead.”

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