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New Mexico man confesses to killing 2 women more than 30 years ago

(Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images)

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KOAT) — On June 22, 1988, 21-year-old Althea Oakley was walking home near the University of New Mexico when she was attacked and stabbed to death.

One year later, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette was driving home from a friend’s house when she was shot and killed.

For more than 30 years, the families of these two young women were left with more questions than answers.

On July 20, 2021 — nearly 32 years to the day after Arquette was killed — 53-year-old Paul Apodaca told UNM police he had information on “murders from a long time ago,” according to police documents.

Albuquerque police said Apodaca confessed to killing both women.

According to the documents, Oakley was walking home from a party at a nearby fraternity house after getting into an argument with her boyfriend.

Apodaca told police he was a security aide at what used to be known as TVI, now known as Central New Mexico Community College, and saw Oakley in the parking lot.

He explained to officers how he got into his car and followed her as she walked along Buena Vista Boulevard to where the Lobo parking lot was located. He said he waited for her on the corner of Buena Vista and Katherine Avenue in front of a house there.

He said he had planned to “take her at knifepoint and rape her.” He said that when she walked past him, he came up behind her and started to stab her in the back, the front and side.

“When she walked up, she smiled at me. She said hi and she smiled at me. That’s the worst part. That’s the worst part. I hurt someone that smiled at me,” he told police.

“I think … what made me do it, what made me attack her was all the hatred I had for women, Because, growing up I seen men treating women bad and they go for the bad guys, and I try to be nice and be good and they just didn’t want that. So, I was jealous and had hatred and I just released it,” Apodaca said.

Last week, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina made the drive to Taos to give Oakley’s parents the news. In a news conference Tuesday, he said, when he arrived, Oakley’s mother thought he was there to tell them they had closed the case.

“It was bittersweet,” Medina told reporters.

Less than a month after graduating from Highland High School, Arquette was driving home on Lomas Boulevard after visiting a friend.

Police said when she pulled up to an intersection, she was shot twice in the head causing her to drift across three oncoming lanes of traffic and crash into a light pole near Arno Street Northeast.

According to a 2019 article in the Albuquerque Journal, officers arrived to the scene around 11 p.m. and made note of a gray Volkswagen Beetle at the scene.

The article says police records from that time identify Apodaca, then 28, as the driver of the Beetle. But those same reports do not indicate that either responding officer questioned Apodaca.

On Tuesday, Chief Medina said Apodaca had also confessed to killing Arquette.

When police spoke to Apodaca’s former TVI supervisor, he told officers Apodaca was responsible for supervising the parking lot and was supposed to walk around and “make sure girls got to their cars safely and that no one was breaking into cars.”

Apodaca’s work was part of a “work study” program while he was a student at TVI. Paycheck records show he worked there from 1988 to 1990.

Police say Apodaca has a violent criminal history dating back to when he was a juvenile.

He was convicted of raping a 14-year-old family member in 1995 and was the first person sentenced in Bernalillo County under a new state law requiring sex offender to register with the sheriff’s office upon their release from prison.

In March of this year, police records show Apodaca pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to supervised probation for three years.

According to a recent probation violation report, Apodaca was homeless. Days before his confession he told his probation officer that he was going to the west side homeless shelter because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Days later he was picked up by UNM police when his probation officer was alerted that he never showed up to the shelter.

When he started talking about these cases from 30 years ago, UNM Police alerted APD.

In addition to confessing to killing Arquette and Oakley, police say Apodaca said he killed a third women in 1988 and raped several others.

Police say they believe they know the identify of the other women he confessed to killing and are talking to her family, but add they’re not ready to release her name.

Detectives with the Sex Crimes Unit are investigating his claims of raping women. Police say at least one rape has been tied to Apodaca thanks to the city’s efforts to clear the rape kit backlog.

At this time, police say they have charged Apodaca with murder in the first degree in the death of Oakley. They say that is the only case he has been charged in because that is the case they have the most evidence in right now. Police do anticipate that more charges will be filed in the future.

After Apodaca’s confession, an officer asked him what prompted him to finally confess.

“He said no, it was a shame that it took him so long to get to this point,” the detective wrote in the complaint. “Paul also said he realized what he had done was evil and dark. He said the word of God has helped him overcome this struggle.”

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