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Accused Serial Killer Charged With 1989 Murder Of Author Lois Duncan's Daughter

Duncan, best known for her YA novel 'I Know What You Did Last Summer,' died before police identified a suspect in her daughter's murder. 

By Jax Miller
Paul Apodaca Pd

A suspected serial killer has been indicted with the 1989 murder of a bestselling author’s daughter, marking his third murder charge in New Mexico.

Police in Albuquerque said Paul Raymond Apodaca, 53, confessed to killing three people in the late 1980s, as previously reported. The suspect was formally charged last August for the 1988 death of Althea Oakeley, 22, and charged in December for the 1988 murder of Stella Gonzales, 13, according to KRQE News 13.

On Monday, a grand jury indicted Apodaca for the murder of Kaitlyn Arquette, 18, according to the Albuquerque outlet. Although the suspect is already in custody for the other charges, prosecutors motioned for a detention hearing in this latest case.

Arquette allegedly confessed to fatally shooting Arquette on July 16, 1989, and claimed he was at the crime scene when police arrived — but he was not questioned at the time.

Arquette’s murder gained nationwide attention after her mother, YA author Lois Duncan, penned the 1992 true-crime book “Who Killed My Daughter: The True Story Of A Mother’s Search For Her Daughter’s Murderer.”

Duncan, most famous for her book ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer,’ passed away in 2016 before Apodaca was named a suspect in Arquette’s murder. During an exclusive 2014 interview with Buzzfeed, the author’s private investigator detailed the events when an unknown assailant shot Arquette twice through the driver’s side window as she drove.

Duncan said her daughter was pronounced brain dead the next day.

“When I placed my hand on her chest and felt it rise and fall to the steady rhythm of the respirator, it was hard to believe she wasn’t alive,” Duncan said.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina made a statement about Apodaca’s charges on Tuesday, according to KOAT 7 News.

“It is gratifying to see charges have finally been brought for the 1989 murder of Kaitlyn Arquette,” said Medina. “While Paul Apodaca confessed to the killing, this case required a comprehensive review as a result of the publicity that has surrounded this case for three decades. Our most seasoned detectives conducted a thorough investigation of all facts and evidence to ensure we were charging the man responsible for this senseless death.”

Apodaca's defense lawyers, however, blamed the publicity surrounding Arquette’s murder for his client being charged, according to 7 News.

“The District Attorney’s Office has only been interested in litigating this case in the press because they know how incomplete and empty these investigations have been,” stated the attorney. “So it is no surprise that another spurious indictment, surely to be followed by slanted and incorrect public statements, had been handed down. We look forward to the opportunity to show the court and a jury that Mr. Apodaca is not guilty of these allegations.”

University of New Mexico police arrested Apodaca on July 20, 2021, for a probation violation, according to authorities. Upon his arrest, Apodaca, a registered sex offender, allegedly confessed to several murders and rapes throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

One of those — Althea Oakeley’s — happened on campus on June 22, 1988, according to police. Witnesses heard Oakeley screaming after she left her boyfriend at a fraternity house following an argument. She was found stabbed to death outside a home on Buena Vista Drive SE.

Medina had asked detectives to reexamine Oakeley’s murders in 2012 and again in 2018 as he rose through the ranks of the police department.

Last February, authorities said the results of a rape kit in a case to which Apodaca allegedly confessed had been matched to the suspect.

Apodaca also reportedly confessed to the shooting death of Stella Gonzales, for which he was later charged, according to KRQE.

On Sept. 9, 1988, Gonzales and her friend were walking east of Tingley Drive when an unknown man approached them in a vehicle, according to police. The suspect fired shots, hitting the young teen, who died as a result of her injuries at a local hospital.

Apodaca has been convicted of several other crimes since he allegedly killed Oakeley, Gonzales and Arquette, as reported by Oxygen.com. In 1995, he was convicted for the kidnap and rape of his 14-year-old stepsister, for which he served 11 years in prison. Apodaca also pleaded no contest to an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer. It was while he was in custody on that charge that he confessed to the murders and rapes.

Court records show that Apodaca has pleaded not guilty to at least one of the crimes he is being charged with, according to KOAT. He is scheduled to appear before a judge on Friday.

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