NM Police Corruption Series: The Murder of Kaitlyn Arquette

On July 16, 1989, 18-year-old Albuquerque, New Mexico resident Kaitlyn Arquette was shot to death in her car. The police called it a random drive-by shooting, but there was nothing random about it. Kaitlyn was targeted.

On that deadly night, Kaitlyn stopped by her parent’s house around 6:00 pm on her way to the home of new friend, Sharon Smith, who ran a snow cone business in front of Pier One Imports where Kaitlyn worked. Sharon had invited Kaitlyn over for dinner and gave her directions on how to get to Sharon’s home.

Before Kaitlyn left for Sharon’s house, she told her parents she was breaking up with her live-in Vietnamese boyfriend, Dung Ngoc Nguyen, and if he called trying to find her, not to say where she was.

Kaitlyn left Sharon’s house at 10:45 pm, driving east on Lomas Blvd. in the direction of her parent’s house. Soon after, she was shot twice in the headA third shot hit the door frame of Kaitylyn’s car.

Her car jumped the median and came to rest against a pole at the intersection of Lomas and Arno Streets.

Kaitlyn survived for 20 hours before succumbing to her injuries the next evening.

The written directions that Sharon gave Kaitlyn were found on the floor of Kaitlyn’s car. The police used these directions to lead them to Sharon’s home where they questioned her about her friend.

It seems that Sharon couldn’t keep her story straight.

Originally, Sharon told APD that Kaitlyn arrived at her home at 9:30 pm. However, she went to great lengths to locate Kaitlyn’s family later (they moved out of New Mexico) and called them, saying Kaitlyn arrived at 7:00 pm, having come directly from a 5:00 pm dollar movie at a nearby theater.

But Kaitlyn’s parents, Don and Lois Arquette, said this was impossible because Kaitlyn arrived at their home at 6:00 pm and left 15 minutes later.

Sharon did tell Kaitlyn’s mother that Kaitlyn seemed very upset that night, often bursting in tears for no apparent reason. She even made Sharon phone her apartment to see if Dung was there. She made it clear she did not want to speak with him, she only wanted to know if he was there or not. Dung never answered the phone. Sharon dialed the apartment for the final time at 10:40 pm; there was still no answer.

It’s worth noting here that sometime after Kaitlyn’s murder, a co-worker contacted Kaitlyn’s family with information that heroin was being channeled through Pier One in shipments of merchandise. After Kaitlyn’s funeral, Sharon applied for her job. Sharon’s boyfriend, Ray Bowes, who has since spent time in prison, also applied for a job there, unpacking boxes. They both worked for only a couple of weeks and then abruptly stopped coming to work.  They didn’t even pick up their paychecks.  Kaitlyn’s family wonders, as mentioned on her website, if the couple were there to receive one final shipment.

The day after the Kaitlyn’s shooting, one of her friends informed Don and Lois that Dung was a member of an organized crime ring that Kaitlyn was in a position to expose.

Dung had an alibi that night, one that was never verified by police. He told police that he and his friends, An Quoc Le and Khanh Tuan Pham spent the evening at a restaurant, and Khanh had dropped him off at Kaitlyn’s apartment at 10:00 pm. This “alibi” conflicts with Sharon’s statement that Dung was not at home when the 10:40 pm call was placed.

Sharon told Lois that she was positive the Vietnamese killed Kait and later fled New Mexico out of fear for her own life.

The Crime Scene

The first officer to arrive at the scene was violent crimes detective Ronald Merriman. He was not in uniform, just merely “passing by” (that late at night?). He observed two vehicles parked on the sidewalk – Kaitlyn’s red Ford Tempo and a VW Bug. He also saw a man, later determined to be Paul Apodoca, standing next to Kaitlyn’s car. Merriman drove past the vehicles while he radioed in to see if any accidents had been reported. There had not been, so he called in a report of an accident with NO injuries without looking at the scene itself THEN returned to the scene to investigate. Only then did he discover Kaitlyn unconscious and soaked in blood, lying across both front seats of her car.
The next officer to arrive at the scene was Mary Ann Wallace. She arrived within 40 seconds of being dispatched. Wallace observed only ONE vehicle on the sidewalk – Kaitlyn’s Tempo, with Merriman standing behind it, chatting with Apodoca.
Merriman, and I’m going to stress that he was a VIOLENT CRIMES DETECTIVE at this time, told Wallace the driver of the Ford had been injured in a TRAFFIC ACCIDENT and he had called for an ambulance. There was no record of this call. However, Wallace recognized this as a crime scene by the very obvious bullet-shattered driver’s window.
Both Merriman and Wallace stated that, accompanied by Apodoca, they opened the passenger’s door of the Ford and observed a girl sprawled across the two seats, bleeding profusely from the head. Wallace noted that the victim was “moaning and crying”. So Kaitlyn was alive at this point or is this a lie? Why would Apodoca help open the passenger door? Normally, cops would tell any bystanders to back away.
And for God knows what reason, Merrimen, Wallace AND Apodoca, then, left the scene. When paramedics with the Albuquerque Ambulance arrived after responding to a routine 10-44 call, there was nobody waiting for them. No cops, police cars, witnesses, NADA, just Kaitlyn alone in her car, unconscious and bleeding from two head wounds. But of course, Merriman and Wallace indicated in reports that they were there when rescue arrived. Yeah, okay.
Neither Wallace nor Merriman took any information from Apodoca and to this day, not one police officer has ever questioned him regarding the shooting of Kaitlyn.

Shockingly (well not really), Apodoca’s VW Bug disappeared between the time Merriman arrived on scene and the arrival of  Officer Wallace. Police didn’t question Apodoca about his missing car either.

According to Kaiylyn’s website, police maintain that Kaitlyn was chased down on Lomas and shot twice in the head at a stop light at the corner of Lomas and John streets. Her car then proceeded to travel 719 feet, cross two traffic lanes, bump over the median, cross three more lanes, go up onto the sidewalk past the Arno intersection, and crash into a light pole.  They say the location of the shooting was defined by a large pile of broken glass at Lomas and John.  However, there is nothing to document the existence of that glass.  It was not gathered up as evidence, nor was it photographed.

Even though Kaitlyn had two bullet holes in her head with no exit wounds, the bullets were not found in her body. No bullet was found from the shot in the door frame either.

Read about possible suspects and motives here.

To this day, not one person has ever been arrested for Kaitlyn’s murder. It remains unsolved and APD has NO desire to investigate her case.

In September of 1991, an informant told APD that an auto-body shop on Arno, which just happened to be the hangout for APD Officer Matt Griffin and fellow officers, was a distribution point for large amounts of cocaine.  The informant identified Maria Alcala, as making deliveries in a truck with an unknown male, later identified as Michael Arellano, son of the owner of the body shop. Alcala and Arellano were surveilled to 824 Arno NE, as were Consuela Santillanes and Pedro Alcala Jr. Surveillance also noted a high level of traffic in and out of the business within a short period of time, consistent with narcotics trafficking.

One month later, an execution of search warrant for cocaine trafficking were executed at 824 Arno NE and 332 Estancia NW.  Pedro Alcala was arrested at 332 Estancia NW and later pled guilty. Michael Arellano and Maria Alcala had apparently been alerted to the raid and headed to Nevada, just before APD, FBI, ATF officers arrived to execute the search warrant.  Cocaine, trafficking paraphernalia and money were seized at 332 Estancia NW.  Drugs and guns were seized at 824 Arno.

There is a lot more information about this case at Kaitlyn’s website, and I highly recommend you go there to read everything you can about it.

Kaitlyn’s mother, Lois Duncan, is an amazing woman, mother, and author. She wrote a book about Kaitlyn titled, “Who Killed My Daughter?” Lois is also the author of  the book, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, which later became a Hollywood movie. Lois will always keep fighting for justice in her daughter’s case. 

I am the same age as Kaitlyn, and I remember being 18 in the 80s. The last thing you thought about was something terrible or violent happening to you. All you cared about was having fun and cute boys. My heart breaks a little when I think about how much she should be here today with her family, updating her status on Facebook, having a family of her own, and being happy. Everything was taken from her. The very least Kaitlyn’s killers can do is to tell what happened that night. Her family deserves that much and more.

Source information: Kaitlyn’s Website; RealCrimes.com; Wikipedia

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Author: truecrimediva

True crime blogger