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Helen Valdez

I have photographed a lot of roadside crosses – for a decade, I stopped at nearly every one I drove by.

And then, I was done, and only rarely stop for them these days.

But the other weekend in New Mexico, we drove by this one, with that “unsolved murder” sign attached to it. It required some u-turns to get back to it, of course, but I wasn’t going to not stop.

Since then, I tried to find out what happened to Helen Valdez. And I learned these things:
1. She was 80 years old.
2. On the night of December 14, 2004, she disappeared from her home after trip to a nearby Walmart to pick up groceries.
3. Her family reported her missing the next day, and although there was evidence of a struggle at her house, neither she nor her body were located there.
4. In April 2005, following a confidential tip, officers found her body on a remote road in a national forest.
5. Her grandson, Joshua Garcia was arrested that same month, and charged with her murder. The lead came from a local woman, a known drug user, who stated that Garcia had confessed to the murder.
6. His trial was set to begin in November 2005, and the prosecutors sought a delay in order to receive more comprehensive forensics reports.
7. And then, in January 2006, all charges relating to Helen Valdez’s murder were dropped.
8. On a side note, the woman who implicated Garcia was herself arrested eight times between November 2004 and January 2007; she was apparently never investigated for the murder.
9. Joshua Garcia passed away unexpectedly on June 10, 2018. He was 41 years old.
10. There have been no further developments.

(Check me out, turning, temporarily, into a true-crime blogger.)(But not a very good one – I didn’t solve the crime or anything.)

Hernandez, New Mexico
photographed 9.1.2019

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