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Albuquerque police have a man in custody who they say has claimed responsibility for three unsolved murders of young women in the late 1980s and well as three unsolved rape cases.
Paul Apodaca, 53, has been held in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center since July 20 on a probation violation, and was charged with first degree murder on August 19 in the 1988 death of Althea Oakeley, 22.
Oakeley was a student at the University of New Mexico at the time of her death on June 22, 1988, and had been walking home from a fraternity party after a fight with her boyfriend when she was stabbed multiple times in the torso, according to the Taos News. A neighbor heard her screaming and ran outside after calling 911, but she and emergency responders were unable to save Oakeley's life; the witness did not get a good enough look at the suspect to make a positive identification.
Apodaca reportedly confessed to investigators that he was working at a security guard at the nearby Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute (since renamed the Central New Mexico Community College) when he spotted Oakeley walking home alone, according to CBS affiliate KRQE in Albuquerque. He allegedly planned to rape her in a nearby parking lot, but stabbed her to death instead, telling police it stemmed from his hatred of women.
Apodaca was able to verify his confession with investigators, according to the Taos News, by identifying a watch he'd dropped near the scene, anticipating a struggle with Oakeley.
Apodaca also reportedly confessed to the July 16, 1989 shooting death of Kaitlyn Arquette, 18, the daughter of YA author Lois Duncan, though he has not yet been formally charged with that crime, according to KRQE. Police have yet to reveal the substance of Apodaca's confession in the Arquette case and are still investigating his confession before charging him, but have admitted to KRQE that he was on the scene of the murder when police happened upon it and was not questioned at the time.
Arquette's family documented that much in their website dedicated to the case, and strongly considered him a suspect. (Duncan passed away in 2016.)
“This is one of the things that breaks our hearts — this man was at the crime scene with the cops,” Kerry Arquette, Kaitlyn's older sister said in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal. “How obvious did it need to be to look into this guy?”
Police say that Apodaca has also confessed to a third murder he allegedly committed between Oakeley's and Arquette's, but they have yet to release details on the victim or the crime, according to the Albuquerque Journal. He's also reportedly admitted to three rapes during that same era, including one in 1993 in which detectives were able to verify his involvement because they had started clearing their rape kit test backlog and received a hit when they sent DNA to the national database, according to the Journal.
Apodaca is a registered sex offender in the state of New Mexico. He was convicted in the kidnapping and rape of his 14-year-old stepsister in 1995. He was released from prison in 2006, and has had regular brushes with the law ever since, according to an Oxygen review of court records. The most recent crime for which he was convicted was in April 2020, when he committed an aggravated assault upon a police office with a deadly weapon. He pleaded no contest to that charge. It was while he was in custody for that offense that he allegedly confessed to the cold case murder and rapes.
Police and prosecutors continue to investigate Apodaca's confessions and have not yet said when decisions will be made about further charges against him.
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