One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer, p.16Lois Duncan
Who was the cop who misrepresented the offense and then magnanimously let the fish off the hook?
I caught my breath as I realized why the name was so familiar.
He was the brother of Paul Apodaca’s drug dealer, Lee.
The implications of such a situation were overwhelming. Roy Nolan had told Pat and me that narcs kept a stable of snitches who accepted assignments in exchange for money and protection. Miguel was in debt to this officer for not arresting him for “aggravated assault.” Four months later, might he have been called to ante up?
But, even if Miguel had agreed to terrorize Kait, that didn’t mean that he killed her. When police raided his home, they had found only one live cartridge and a single action revolver loaded with blanks. Blanks suggested intimidation, not murder. No blanks had been found in Juve’s arsenal. Might Juve have been privately commissioned to kill Kait, while Miguel and Marty thought they were just going to scare her?
Neither Juve’s Camaro nor Paul Apodaca’s VW was a large enough vehicle to ram Kait’s car with such force that it traveled over 700 feet, jumped the median, and ended up on the opposite sidewalk. But a police car could easily have done that. If a renegade cop had forced Kait off the road and fired a shot at her car to scare her, it was not impossible that Juve might have become excited, leapt from his Camaro and impulsively finished her off with a smaller caliber weapon.
In 1990, when psychic detective Noreen Renier had channeled Kait, she had described a scene that resembled the one I now was visualizing. “I leave my friend’s house and I’m cut off … They’re coming to both sides of the car … I’m shot. Execution style.”
“I’m thinking along those same lines,” Pat said when we compared theories. “I’ve suggested to the Cold Case detective that the Hispanics may have been hired to frighten Kait into keeping her mouth shut or to create a drive-by scenario to obscure a hit by somebody else. 11 He seems to find that concept interesting. He’s going to interview Paul Apodaca in prison and try to find out what really happened at the crime scene.”
“What about the resurfaced witness?” I asked her.
“I don’t think he’s made much progress with her,” Pat said. “If he discovers he’s been fed a false lead, he’ll go ballistic. This isn’t a man who’ll take kindly to being manipulated.”
By now the Attorney General’s Office had completed its investigation of the evidence room problems and announced that no one would be prosecuted. The two principal embezzlement suspects were reassigned to a different department. The manager of the evidence room, who was cited in an independent review as the person most responsible for concealing the thefts, resigned. She, then, was placed in charge of the New Mexico State Crime Lab. “We have no reason to suspect that she is anything but the best,” said the spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “We are quite fortunate to get her here.”
The mayor expressed his pleasure that no uniformed officers were arrested.
The police chief was awarded his full retirement pension. He told reporters that he was looking forward to sleeping in, drinking coffee with artificial sweetener and cream, and watching football on television.
The only people to suffer were the whistle blowers.
I asked Pat when the Cold Case detective was going to interview Paul Apodaca.
“I don’t know,” Pat said. “It’s been over a month since I’ve heard from him. I’ll give him a call right now and ask him about that.”
A few minutes later she called back, sounding stunned and disheartened.
“He’s been transferred out of the Cold Case Unit,” she told me.
To: Lois Duncan:
Subject: Re: i worked w/kait at the import store
Wow, lo these many years later, and I hadn’t thought about the whole tragic thing since I moved from Albuquerque shortly after Kait’s murder! What a shock to stumble upon a website and all of the crazy goings on possibly connected! I used to work at that store when Kait was clothing manager, and I had a weird experience of my own. I found a packet of heroin in a box of fans. That was shortly before Kait was killed. I now live in a different state, but I’ve never forgotten Kait, even though she and I didn’t know one another well. I have a child of my own, and can’t imagine what you’ve gone through. Here’s my phone number if you want to reach me. Sincerely,
After all this time, the final pieces of the terrible puzzle were seemingly tumbling into place — the smuggling of drugs from the Orient; potential Asian recipients in place in Albuquerque; VIP drug addicts and/or administrators of drug cartels with easy access to drugs coming in from Mexico but no way to obtain the valuable white heroin from Asia; a crooked body shop where drugs were distributed — and Kait, planted solidly in the middle of all of those.
I phoned Kim. My heart was in my throat. What if she turned out to be yet another fraudulent informant? What if she’d never worked at that shop at all?
But the moment I heard her voice —kind and concerned and intelligent — I sensed that whatever she had to tell me would be true.
“In 1989, my boyfriend and I were working as musicians,” Kim said. “We traveled around a lot and stayed in various cities for short lengths of time. Every place we went, I’d get a day job to supplement what we earned in nightclubs. We were in Albuquerque nine months and I worked at that import store for two or three of those. I remember Kait being clothing manager but didn’t know her well.”
“What were your duties?” I asked her.
“I worked the floor and helped stock shelves,” Kim said. “Shipments came from a central distribution center out of state. Boxes were stored in a back room, brought out one at a time as needed, and unpacked by whoever was available.
“When I found the heroin, it was evening and we were just getting ready to close. I unpacked a box of fans and discovered the packet. I recognized it as heroin because I worked in bars and was familiar with drugs. I also knew how the little packets were folded.”
“Did you report it to the manager?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t tell anybody who worked there because I didn’t know who might be involved. Somebody there must have been expected to intercept it, but somehow missed it. Since it was only one packet, I’m guessing it was a sample and the game was just getting started. The major deliveries were probably scheduled for later.”
Kim said she took the packet home with her. Then she phoned her brother, an out-of-state police officer, to ask him what to do. He advised her to call the FBI. Federal agents came to her apartment and seized the heroin. She never heard from them again.
A week later, Lenore*, the manager of the import store, was fired, allegedly because upper management paid a surprise visit and found the store “not up to merchandising standards.” That came as a shock to everyone, especially Lenore. Kim said she went into work that day and found Lenore crying. She said Lenore was young and ambitious and prided herself on running a tight ship. She was a strict but fair boss, and all her employees respected her.
“She didn’t deserve to be fired,” Kim said. “She was doing a fine job. I’ve wondered if the feds might have contacted the home office and demanded to know what was going on at their Albuquerque store. The could have used a pretext to get rid of Lenore so they could bring in somebody from upper management to keep an eye on things.”
There was tension in the air, and Kim had started to get nervous. She quit her job and started working at a restaurant. Soon after that, she read in the paper that Kait had been shot.
“I was stunned,” Kim said. “I’d never known anyone who was murdered. And the coincidence of the timing — Kait gets promoted to clothing manager; I find the heroin and turn it in; Lenore gets fired for some bogus reason; and a couple of weeks later Kait gets killed. All within such a short period of time.”
“The stumbling block for me is the apparent randomness of the drug importation,” I said. “The person who stuck that packet in with the fa
“All of them were supposed to be from that distribution center,” Kim said. “But that doesn’t mean they all were. Many of the boxes came by UPS. The average employee, seeing those boxes come in, would assume they came from the distribution center, but they could just as well have come from a foreign country. If someone was alerted to watch for those particular boxes, they could intercept them on the loading dock or in the storeroom. Kait’s boyfriend and his friends were in and out of that store all the time, visiting Kait.”
Kim talked with Pat and reiterated all that she’d told me. She also agreed to put Pat in touch with her brother, who could confirm that Kim had told him about finding the heroin.
“Kim speculates that the new manager may have been assigned to check out the situation,” Pat said. “That store wasn’t computerized back in 1989. Since Kait was handling the invoices, he may have asked her to watch for incoming shipments that didn’t match up with statements from the warehouse. If Kait told Dung about that, and he repeated it to people in the smuggling ring, that could have gotten her killed. That would account for his saying, “This is all my fault!’”
“There’s another possibility,” I said. “What if Kait was ordered to intercept the heroin and refused to? Remember what Susan told her girlfriend about Kait’s telling Dung, ‘I know what you guys are up to, and I don’t want to get involved.’ That was only days before the murder.”
“I want to know how Susan fits into this,” Pat said. “How did she know about Kait’s ultimatum to Dung? It’s not likely Kait would have told her. But if, for some reason, she did, why didn’t Susan report it after the shooting? She had plenty of opportunity.”
“Are you suggesting that Susan may have learned that from Dung?”
“I don’t know what part she may have played in this, if any, but she’s told lie after lie, and there has to be a reason. When Susan applied to rent the space in front of that import store, she told the property manager she was doing so with an inheritance from her parents in Texas. I’ve run a background check, and her parents are alive and living in New Mexico. As soon as Kait died, she abandoned her cracked ice business, applied for Kait’s job at the import store, and talked the new manager into hiring her boyfriend to work on the loading dock. Ten days later, they both stopped coming to work, without even picking up their paychecks. What does that add up to?” 12
“It seems to suggest something I don’t want to believe,” I told her.
The state of New Mexico was in turmoil. Good and bad were tumbling like dominoes. When I pulled up on-line editions of Albuquerque papers, I was never prepared for what I might find:
State Treasurer Robert Vigil and former State Treasurer Michael Montoya are arrested on federal extortion charges. Montoya plea bargains and testifies against Vigil. Vigil is convicted and sentenced to prison. Montoya is later sentenced to prison as well.
Jay Rowland, Albuquerque’s independent police review officer, is notified that his contract will not be renewed. Rowland states his belief that his ouster was orchestrated by the Police Union.
David Iglesias, U.S. Attorney from New Mexico, who publicly expressed his shock at the names of the VIPs in the buried narcotics report, is fired.
Manny Aragon, President Pro Tem of the New Mexico State Senate at the time of Kait’s murder, is charged with fourteen counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering.
Ken Schultz, mayor of Albuquerque at the time of Kait’s murder, is charged with similar offenses. He plea bargains and agrees to testify against Aragon.
Raul Parra, a contractor involved with the scheme, admits to skimming $3.3 million from the Metro Court audiovisual contract. Parra says he transferred more than $600,000 of the ill-gotten money to Manny Aragon. An outraged Aragon insists, “I am completely innocent!”
Toby Martinez, former Metropolitan Court administrator, is charged with similar offenses. He plea bargains and agrees to testify against Aragon.
When Manny Aragon realizes that the computer records and spreadsheets will now be allowed into evidence, he changes his plea to “guilty.” The plea deal results in a sentence of sixty-seven months in federal prison (as compared to the eighteen years he would have received if convicted on all counts at a trial) and nearly two million dollars in fines and restitution. He is given a private send-off party by many of Albuquerque’s most prominent citizens.
Manny’s brother, Charles Aragon, pleads guilty to possession with intent to distribute almost half a million dollars worth of marijuana. He has two prior federal drug convictions, one for being chief financier of an international drug smuggling operation at the time of Kait’s murder.
A newspaper article by Mike Gallagher reveals that former senator Aragon has been on the radar of federal agencies for over twenty years and has a long record of business dealings and friendships with convicted felons. It also discloses that Aragon was a partner in a construction business with Jerry Padilla Sr., a three-time convicted heroin dealer. The year of Kait’s murder, Padilla was sentenced to ninety-six months in federal prison.
That same Jerry Padilla and his family head Los Padillas, the most dangerous street gang in New Mexico, known for distribution of heroin and other drugs.
And so, we have come full circle and are back to the drug scene — crooked political figures consorting with the state’s narcotics king pins.
One of Betty’s readings said that, to solve Kait’s case, an investigation must “start from the top and trace information downward.” I had assumed that this reading referred to the top tier of the police force.
Now I was starting to wonder if I’d misunderstood it.
JUNE 2010 —
A SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT:
The Supreme Court of New Mexico has found that the 1997 amendment which abolished the 15 year statute of limitations for all capital felonies and first degree violent felonies, applies to all crimes committed within the 15 year period BEFORE its effective date of July 1, 1997. The State will now be able to prosecute all capital felonies and first-degree violent felonies committed after July 1, 1982.
In other words, the police department was wrong in their assertion that further investigation of Kait’s case would be wasted. In the event that her killers are arrested and indicted, they will be able to be prosecuted, since her murder took place in July 1989.
More things are continuing to happen, and they’re happening quickly — most importantly, the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a full investigation of APD.
I cannot help but recall Betty Muench’s prediction:
“There are certain beings who will seem to be working on their own, but who have the abilities of training from higher authorities and thus can know the manner in which to infiltrate certain groups that will have to be inspected from the inside out.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has the power to do that.
Although Don and I have agreed that Kait’s personal case is of minor importance compared to the Big Picture, we have not lost hope that eventually it will be solved. From dozens of unrelated sources, a gigantic amount of information has accumulated to produce a convincing scenario that I never could have imagined at the time I wrote Who Killed My Daughter?.
I am a writer by trade, and now I have set the rest of Kait’s story on paper. This is the best I can do until others come forward — those who will either refute my scenario or validate it.
And I feel in the depths of my heart that they will come forward to correct my inaccuracies and fill in the gaps in the story. Because, like Don and me, those people are aging. Each time they look in the mirror — or color the roots of their hair, or detect a lump in the breast, or experience a pain in the chest — they become aware of their mortality.
It won’t be te
Psychic Betty Muench died April 10, 2010.
Betty had often told me about a dream she had of one day publishing readings she had done for clients, (though only, of course, with their permission). Her hope was to open people’s minds to the possibility that the five physical senses that most of us regard as the only keys to reality may, in truth, be just the edge of a greater reality. Betty was the first to admit that she, herself, didn’t know the extent of that reality. She considered herself a tool in the hands of “Spirit,” a vehicle through which mental energy could be channeled. She said, “I have no more wisdom than anyone else — just a receptive mind, two hands, and a typewriter.”
Betty — this Appendix is dedicated to you.
The following readings by psychics Betty Muench and Robert Petro are keyed to footnotes within the text:
1. Betty Muench, 9/18/93:What can you tell us about the wound that prevented Susan from attending Kait’s funeral?
This is something that will have been very impromptu and came so suddenly that Susan could not move away from this and she will have been intimidated. This injury will have been inflicted by something ornate and available, an impulse of the moment. Susan will be one who will think of herself as impervious and very strong, but this incident with the cut will have been very sad for her in that it broke her spirit. This was what the true intention was, to shake her beliefs around this situation with Kait. She has no desire to be dishonest, but she is in so far over her head that she will be creating certain danger for herself if she talks. She does not even now know the whole truth.
This situation around Kait and the manner in which it was handled by authorities and by those actually involved was such that there has been harm done to many others, and Susan is one of the victims. Something was done to her, and it will have traumatized her. This has the sense of the Vietnam influence to it, but Dung will have been seemingly outside of this. Others seem to have taken this in their control.
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