NM Police Corruption Series: The Disappearance of Teresa Reyes

This is the last post in my series on New Mexico Police Corruption.

photo source realcrimes.com
photo source realcrimes.com

On July 1, 1998, seventeen-year-old Teresa Reyes disappeared from her parents apartment in Albuquerque, New Mexico sometime after 11:00 p.m. and has never been found.

Earlier that evening, Teresa, or Terry as she was known to friends and family, was hanging out with her cousin, Tyfanni Sedillo. The girls stopped at a gas station to use the payphone. While there, five guys in a cream-colored van, 20-21 years old, approached the girls, asking them if they wanted to go to a party. These guys were later described by Terry’s friend as being “Mexican-gang type”, heads shaved, and wearing baggy pants.

The party the girls were invited to took place in a housing complex behind the gas station. Terry wanted to go but the friend did not, and got Terry out of there. Before they left, Terry wrote down a phone number on a napkin using a lipstick in place of a pen. This number was where the party was being held.

After the friend dropped Terry off at home around 11:00 p.m., Terry grabbed a snack – plate of fries and a soda – took her medications (she is bi-polar and takes several medications daily), and went to her bedroom. Her parents locked up the apartment and went to bed.

Around 3:00 a.m., Terry’s mother, all named Teresa, was awakened by the sound of Terry’s bedroom door banging in the breeze. The light and T.V. in Terry’s room was on and music was playing, but Terry had left the apartment and never returned. Her mother believes she sneaked out of the apartment to go to that party.

Teresa called the police but was told she had to wait 72 hours before reporting her daughter missing. She waited the 72 hours and called back. When the police found out Terry’s age, they said, “Oh, then she’s a runaway. Lots of girls do that.” Nice assumption there, cops. You get paid on assumptions?

Regardless, Detective Mallon was sent to the apartment and talked with Terry’s parents. Because she was a runaway, they couldn’t start an investigation for six months. Teresa explained that she didn’t believe her daughter had runaway. Terry didn’t take clothes, money, her purse, or makeup.

We all know a girl, especially a teenage girl, doesn’t go anywhere without her purse. Hello! That should have been a red flag to the detective, but it wasn’t.

Teresa’s medication was also left behind. She had to have her medication and she knew it. Apparently, Barney Fife aka Mallon refused to believe that Teresa had not left of her own accord.

Six months later, Terry, now 18, was still missing. Her mother called the police like she was told to do. Because she was legally an adult at this time, her case was transferred to the Missing Persons Division. At the time, there was only one worker, a civilian, handling cases in that division and she was overworked. Nevertheless, she tried getting detectives to work on Terry’s case, but they refused to believe anything other than she was a runaway.

Frustrated, Teresa started looking for help elsewhere. She contacted  the ID Resource Center of Albuquerque, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, television stations, and the Mayor’s Office. She contacted the FBI, who spoke with the local police. But the cops told the FBI Terry ran away, and that was the end of it.

It was a known fact that Terry had stayed away from home on occasion, but never for more than a couple of days, and she always phoned her mother to let her know she was okay.

In July of 1999, a tip came over the tip line Teresa had set up. An anonymous caller claimed he had seen Terry but demanded money in return for his information.

The call was traced to a Richard in Room 151 of the Econo Lodge at Central and San Pedro Drive Northeast. Teresa contacted Mallon who went to the motel to interview Richard, who claimed Terry may have been in the room of a Cuban guy he bought drugs from. Richard gave the detective the pager number of a prostitute named Monica, who had also been in the room. 

When questioned, Monica said she was positive the girl in the photo shown to her was the girl seen with the Cuban man. Monica was also sure that this girl went by “Terry”. Monica said the girl seemed fine and may have been working as a prostitute for Oscar, the Cuban drug dealer who drove a white Maxima. She told Mallan that Terry had told her that she would go home when she was ready. This sighting as not been confirmed.

In June 2000, the family hired private investigator Pat Caristo, who tried to contact Mallon about the case. She was told that Mallon had been reassigned to another unit and his reports could not be found.

How convenient.

Caristo questioned Tyfanni, something the police never did, and she told him about the five guys. The friend never believed that Terry ran away.

Caristo went to the housing complex where the party had taken place, and found a cream-colored van that matched the description of the van the guys were driving. She took down the license plate number and took pictures of the van. She checked out the license plate and identified the owner. She handed all of this information over to the police.

One day, Teresa was attempting to sew up a hold in a clown doll that her daughter loved when she discovered something in the hole. It was the napkin with a telephone number written on it in lipstick. That number was (505) 837-8208. Caristo told her to put it in an envelope, note the date, time, and location of where she found it, and keep it safe until the police came to collect it. Caristo then called the APD Missing Persons Investigator and told her about the napkin. The woman advised her to fax a report of all the case information to her to give to an APD detective.

Not one person from APD followed up with this information.

Caristo tried calling the number on the napkin, but it was disconnected and unlisted.

On September 26, 2000, Terry’s 19th birthday, and over two years since she vanished, her mother wrote a letter to APD Chief Galvin, explaining the situation, but he never responded.

On October 10th of that year, she wrote the same letter to the Police Oversight Commission. Lo and behold, someone from APD went to her house to pick up the napkin.

But did they do anything with it? Nope, and Terry’s mom never heard from them again.

Eventually, Terry was reclassified from endangered runaway to endangered missing.

UPDATE: A skull found in 2004 in a remote stretch of Jemez Pueblo, 65 miles out of Albuquerque, was identified in 2013 as that of Terry Reyes. As of 2015, it is still unclear what happened to the young woman and no arrest has been made. 

Source information: The Doe Network, The Charley Project, RealCrimes.com

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Author: truecrimediva

True crime blogger