SANTA FE (KRQE) – Two cold case murders continue to haunt two cities in the metro.
The Santa Fe Police Department is leaving no stone unturned to solve the brutal crimes, and recently sent thousands of pieces of evidence to the state crime lab. Detectives hope the DNA of the killer will surface in one of the other cases.
“We are really, really hoping that the needle in the haystack is lying right beneath our feet, literally, in the basement at Santa Fe police,” said SFPD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza.
Santa Fe police know this is a massive project, but the department hopes it will pay off.
The brutal rape and murder of Susan Laporte in 1985 is the driving force behind it all. She was strangled to death and left in a Santa Fe arroyo.
Maria Padilla, who was also raped and strangled that same year, was left on a Bosque trail in Albuquerque. DNA from the same suspect links the cases.
For decades, detectives have been looking for the killer. Now, for the first time, Santa Fe police have cleared out their evidence locker hoping the killer’s DNA will surface in another case.
“We think there are about 20,000 pieces of evidence in our lab,” Espinoza said. “Anything that had to do with a violent crime, possible rape, anything that could have DNA, we swabbed and resubmitted to the lab.”
This isn’t the first time Santa Fe has taken such a drastic approach to solving the cold case.
Last year, detectives re-sent 25 rape cases to the lab hoping new technology could find smaller traces of DNA that were not viable before and there was a hit.
Suspect DNA in a 1991 rape case matched 46-year-old David Garcia. His DNA was in a national database after a 2002 assault arrest.
Detectives are hoping this time around something in the massive mound of evidence just sent will solve the Laporte case and get her killer off the streets.
“We know he committed at least a rape and murder in Bernalillo County, but maybe even more than that,” Espinoza said. “Maybe not just in New Mexico, but all around the nation.”
Santa Fe police say the detective who’s been working this case for the past two decades doesn’t want to retire until they’ve solved this. As for the case in Bernalillo County, a new detective has taken over.