I was asked by a family member of the victim to write about this case. This is a New Mexico case and if you are familiar with my blog, you know I have written several cases involving murder and police corruption in that state. This may be one of them, so I am extremely happy to get exposure to this case for the family.
Update 01/22/17: Please note corrections made to this article at the end of “About the Case”.
Helen Valdez went missing in New Mexico in 2004 and was found dead a few months later in April 2005. Her grandson, Joshua Garcia, was arrested for her murder but never convicted due to lack of evidence. No one else has been arrested for Helen’s murder, and the case remains unsolved.
About the Case
In 2004, 80-year-old Helen Valdez resided in El Guache, New Mexico. On the night of December 14th, she disappeared after visiting Wal-Mart in Española, New Mexico, about four miles from her home.
Helen’s daughter tried calling her later that night but could not reach her. Family members drove to Helen’s home (the next day) and found her
blue white Buick Century parked outside. Groceries were still inside the car home. However, Helen and her purse were nowhere to be found and police were then called.
When police searched Helen’s home for evidence, they found bloody dentures in a flower pot and blood spatter on the wall. It also looked like someone attempted to clean blood off of the floor.
A few months later in April 2005, police found Helen’s body in a gully near Santa Fe National Forest Road 144, an area previously searched after Helen vanished. A confidential tip to a Rio Arriba County sheriff’s detective led police to that location.
The body was heavily decomposed, so a cause of death could not be determined, but her death was ruled a homicide. The body was identified through medical records obtained from the family.
Immediately after Helen’s remains were found, Glenda Rodriguez, a known drug user and police informant, accused Joshua Garcia, Helen’s own grandson, of Helen’s murder. She claimed the two were shooting up heroin in a car in Hernandez, NM, and Joshua admitted to accidentally killing his grandmother by pushing her down
stairs in her home, and cutting her throat after she refused to give him money.
Rodriguez also claimed she sold Joshua $40 worth of heroin. After pointing the finger at Joshua, Rodriguez then became the prosecution’s star witness.
Police searched Joshua’s home and found blood on a piece of carpet.
Relying on a drug user’s statement and blood found on the carpet, a judge found probable cause for an arrest and police charged Joshua with first-degree murder, robbery, three counts of evidence tampering and four counts of aggravated battery on a household member in the slaying of Helen Valdez.
Between November 2004 and January 2007, Rodriguez was arrested eight times. Of those eight arrests, three were battery charges on either a household member or a peace officer. One of those arrests occurred on 10/27/05 and Rodriguez was charged with battery and aggravated battery involving the use of a deadly weapon.
Despite Rodriguez having a criminal background, she was never considered a person of interest or named a suspect by police in Helen’s murder.
Helen’s family believes it was Rodriguez who led police to Helen’s remains, although police have always denied it. They also believe state and local police know more than they are saying about Helen’s disappearance.
In January 2006, all charges against Joshua Garcia were dropped. Blood found on a carpet in Joshua’s home turned out to be animal blood.
No one else has ever been charged in Helen’s murder.
It is unclear where Rodriguez is now and whether or not she has been arrested since 2007.
Helen’s case is unsolved, but it is NOT listed on New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s website under cold cases.
Corrections: One of the family members asked me to not have Joshua’s picture in this post, so it’s been taken down. Also, the family pointed out a few errors. I got the info from online news sources, which is a perfect example of why I cannot guarantee the accuracy of information in any article I write. Please see the changes below and I will change my thoughts regarding this info as well.
- Helen’s car was white, not blue.
- Helen’s groceries were actually inside the house. She was preparing to cook.
- Family did not search for Helen until the day after she disappeared.
- There were no stairs in Helen’s home. Rodriguez told police that Joshua pushed Helen down and cut her throat when she refused to give him money.
Image of Helen Valdez were given to True Crime Diva by the family of Helen Valdez to use with permission in this article.
Other source for article: Albuquerque Journal.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out something isn’t right with this case. It’s never a good sign when police believe a drug addict over real physical evidence. Never! Why on earth would they believe Rodriguez, a common criminal and drug user, without any evidence backing her statement up? Why did they automatically believe her? Where was she the night Helen disappeared?
There was no sufficient evidence proving Joshua Garcia killed his own grandmother which is why the charges were dropped. The blood found on his carpet was from his dog having puppies. Good police work here, or should I say LACK of police work. So why on earth would they arrest Garcia before the results of the blood came back? I am assuming, of course, the blood was tested.
Where did the robbery charge come from? Where was the ACTUAL evidence Helen was robbed? From the crime scene?
Was Helen’s car ever processed as a crime scene? It should have been regardless of whether or not blood was found only in the home. At the very least, police should have checked it for fingerprints.
We know Helen made it back home from Wal-Mart the night she disappeared because blood was found in her home, her car was there and according to reports, groceries were still in the car inside the house. Because her dentures were found in the flower pot, I think it’s safe to say that Helen was hit in the face with such intense force, it knocked her dentures out of her mouth. Either they flew into the pot on their own or the killer placed them there for whatever reason.
Helen’s death was obviously very violent due to all the blood found in her home. Her killer was angry and determined to kill her. Maybe so a witness was not left behind. I think she was probably hit in the mouth area with a fist or object like a gun and then beaten to death. I think Helen was murdered in the home and was dead when the killer transported her body out of the home.
Whoever killed her probably followed her home from Wal-Mart. How they got into the home, I’m not sure. Considering Helen’s groceries were still in her car in her house, I’m thinking the person was either waiting in her home for her to get home, or they simply knocked on the door and forced their way in.
Did any neighbors witness anything like arguing, or someone talking to Helen?
The only logical motive for anyone to murder an 80-year-old is money. Her body was heavily decomposed so there was no proof of a sexual assault. In this case, I do think money was the motive.
It’s clear that Rodriguez had an anger and battery issue. So, after she was charged three times with battery, including aggravated battery against a household member like Joshua was charged with, the normal thing to do would be to suspect that SHE could have been the one who murdered Helen. Even if he had killed Helen, which I do not believe he did, I highly doubt he would have told her the exact location of Helen’s body.
I’m with the family. I believe that Rodriguez led them to Helen’s remains after moving them to the location where they were discovered. The body had been moved because the area where it was found had already been searched. So even if Joshua had killed Helen and told Glenda where the body was, Glenda NEVER mentioned Joshua moving the body to the location where the body was found. Interesting, I’d say, because if he had really told her all of this about killing Helen, he would have mentioned moving the body.
I think it is possible that Rodriguez saw Helen at Wal-Mart, followed her home, and robbed and killed her. There has got to be Wal-Mart video surveillance footage of Helen in Wal-Mart on December 14th. If Glenda was there at the same time as Helen, was she following Helen? Stalking her? What about someone else? I could find no info about surveillance video, but I know Wal-Mart would have had it available to LE. If LE is protecting Rodriguez, then they would never release footage of Helen at Wal-Mart.
There is another possible theory that you may think is completely out there but this is New Mexico we are talking about. What if Helen witnessed something involving the local police and someone from the police department killed her and used Rodriguez to help cover it up? It would explain using a criminal and drug user as a key witness in a murder trial. They automatically believed her, it appears, without any solid proof of Joshua’s guilt. Hearsay is what we call that, my friends, and it usually isn’t allowed in court. This could also explain why the body wasn’t found sooner than it was. The killer had disposed of the remains elsewhere and then moved them to the location they were found in once the full plan using Rodriguez was ready to go. I know this theory is out there, but anything is possible.
I seriously do not get the mind of Helen’s killer. She was 80 years old. What could she have done to warrant killing her? Helen’s family knew of no connection between Helen and Rodriguez, but maybe there was one they didn’t know about. If Helen had information that could hurt someone or his or her reputation, that is worth killing over, and so is money.
This is an unsolved murder yet there is very little info available on it considering it was less than 20 years ago.
01/22/07: After making the corrections, I have one more thing to say. If there were no stairs in Helen’s home, and Glenda told the police Joshua said he pushed Helen down stairs in her home, then obviously Rodriguez was lying, and police knew this.
Who do you think was responsible for the murder of Helen Valdez?