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One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer

Lois Duncan


  On the Trail of a Killer

  By Lois Duncan

  for “Kait’s Army”

  with gratitude

  This is a true story. The facts are documented. Several names have been changed to protect individuals who might be endangered if they were identified.

  Excerpts from newspaper articles are used with permission of The Albuquerque Journal, The Albuquerque Tribune, The L.A. Times, and The John Cooke Fraud Report and are copyrighted in the names of those publications.

  Psychic readings that pertain to particular events that are described in the text but are not paramount to the story are numbered as footnotes and presented in full in the Appendix.

  Cover art is by Kaitlyn Arquette, created at age 10.

  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797).


  Albuquerque Tribune, July 18, 1989


  by Lynn Bartels, staff reporter

  Kaitlyn Arquette, a recent graduate of Highland High School, was shot in the head Sunday night as she drove home after having dinner with a girlfriend. The 18-year-old student, whose mother writes critically acclaimed teen books under the name of Lois Duncan, died Monday night at University Hospital. Police have no leads in the shooting.

  Arquette appeared to have been driving east on Lomas Boulevard with her windows up when she was shot. She then crashed into a light pole at 401 Lomas Blvd. N.E.

  “Kait was a straight arrow,” said Arquette’s sister, 32-year-old Kerry Mahrer of Dallas. “She worked fulltime at an import store throughout her senior year of high school and still held down shining grades.”

  Mahrer said her sister planned to be a physician and was taking summer classes at the University of New Mexico.

  Mahrer said her parents, Don and Lois Arquette, “were doing as well as could be expected – lousy.”

  Other survivors include a sister, Robin, 34, of Florida, and brothers, Brett, 31, and Don Jr., 21, of Albuquerque.

  Albuquerque Journal, July 21, 1989


  by Glen Rosales, staff writer

  Albuquerque police are searching for a gray Volkswagen they say may be connected to the shooting of Kaitlyn Arquette … “We are not saying this is a suspect’s car,” police Chief Sam Baca said during a news conference. “It was seen around the area around the time of the shooting.”

  Outside the funeral, Kaitlyn’s girlfriends filed past Dung Nguyen, Kaitlyn’s boyfriend, hugging and consoling him.

  Later, he talked about the night Kaitlyn was shot.

  “I waited and waited for her,” Nguyen said. “But she never came home. Nobody called me. Nobody told me nothing. Then police came to the door. They started searching my house, going through everything. They asked my whereabouts that night. They asked if I had a gun. I kept asking them, ‘What happened?’ When they told me, I went down there, but she had already been taken to the hospital. I went to the hospital. It didn’t look like her. I didn’t know who she was.”

  Albuquerque Tribune, January 18, 1990


  by Cary Tyler, staff reporter

  Three men have been arrested in the shooting death of Kaitlyn Arquette.

  Juvenal Escobedo, 21; Miguel Garcia, 18; and Dennis “Marty” Martinez, 18, were arrested Wednesday night. The suspects were charged on open counts of murder and using a gun in a crime. They are being held at the City-County Jail. A Crime Stopper’s tip led to the arrests, Herrera said.

  Arquette was the youngest of five children and daughter of author Lois Arquette, who uses the pen name, Lois Duncan. Her father, Donald, is an electrical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories.

  Arquette’s heart and lungs were donated to a Santa Fe man at Presbyterian Hospital who received a rare lung-heart transplant. Her liver was donated to a man in the Los Angeles area, her kidneys went to a San Francisco patient, and her pancreas was sent to Miami for research.

  Before the shooting, Arquette had dinner with a friend. Arquette was invited to spend the night with her friend, but declined, saying she had to study for a summer school class.

  Albuquerque Journal, February 10, 1990


  by Sonny Lopez and Steve Shoup

  Robert Garcia admits he lied to Albuquerque police when he told them he witnessed the shooting of Kaitlyn Arquette during a joy ride with three friends, but he says police pressured him to tell the story…

  Garcia, 16, said he was interviewed by police for more than nine hours. He said he initially told officers the truth – that he was in the Youth Diagnostic and Development Center the night Arquette was killed – but then changed his story. He says he lied to satisfy investigators, who he claims threatened him with arrest and prison.

  “They started scaring me and stuff,” Garcia said.

  He also said the men who were arrested had never told him they had been involved in the shooting death.

  Albuquerque Journal, March 1, 1990


  by Susanne Burks and Lea Lorber

  A man indicted in connection with the killing of Kaitlyn Arquette did not turn himself in to his attorney Wednesday, and despite a bench warrant for his arrest was not in custody late Wednesday night….

  Assistant Public Defender Lorenzo Chacon, who represents Juvenal Escobedo, said … “I can only speculate he’s been frightened off by all the commotion.”

  Escobedo and Miguel Juan Garcia were indicted late Tuesday on charges of first-degree murder and related crimes. Garcia remains in the city-county jail in lieu of bond in an unrelated burglary-larceny case.

  A spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Police Department said that no all-points bulletin had been issued for Escobedo. She said she didn’t know whether police attempted to arrest Escobedo and she knew nothing else about the case.

  Chacon said he talked to members of Escobedo’s family Wednesday and “they were under the impression he turned himself in. His girlfriend thought police had picked him up last night.”

  Albuquerque Journal, July 8, 1990


  by Mike Gallagher, Investigative Reporter

  The Kaitlyn Arquette slaying was described by police as a random shooting: a few drunken young men in a car firing a pistol on a dare.

  But police reports indicate the case against the two men now charged with the shooting might be shaky. The reports show witnesses who have given contradictory information, statements since recanted, and little in the way of physical evidence. The reports also disclose other theories have been offered about Arquette’s killing …

  It was a shooting that shocked the city, and once police had leads in the case they used nearly every possible tactic to solve it.

  Homicide investigators hypnotized a witness, hid a tape recorder in a jail holding cell, used a lie detector test, relied on Crime Stoppers tips and used interrogation techniques that will be challenged in court.

  There was little apparent progress in the case for six months – until a Crime Stoppers tipster identified four suspects as the killers.

  On Jan. 17, 1990, detectives arrested the four. Two of the suspects gave police statements identifying Juvenal Escobedo and Miguel Garcia as the two mainly responsible for the shooting. Robert Garcia, who is no relation to Miguel, told police he watched Miguel Garcia fire three shots from a .22-caliber revolver at a car. Pol
ice obtained a similar statement from Dennis “Marty” Martinez.

  Police had to back off Garcia’s statement when they learned he was in the Youth Diagnostic Center the night of the killing. Martinez has since recanted. Garcia remains in jail, but Escobedo is a fugitive.

  Police reports don’t reveal any independent eyewitnesses to the shooting and no scientific evidence linking Garcia and Escobedo to the killing.

  The reports also show detectives didn’t consider Arquette’s live-in boyfriend, Dung Ngoc Nguyen, to be a suspect. Reports do show police were told the couple’s relationship was stormy, with Arquette having threatened to throw him out of the apartment, and one person told officers that Nguyen had involved her in an alleged insurance fraud.

  Albuquerque Journal, July 8, 1990


  by Mike Gallagher, investigative reporter

  On Feb. 3, 1990, on orders of the District Attorney’s Office to clean up any loose ends in the Kaitlyn Arquette murder case, city police re-interviewed Arquette’s Vietnamese boyfriend, Dung Ngoc Nguyen. Nguyen, 26, had never been a suspect in the homicide as far as detectives were concerned, although Arquette’s girlfriends told police the relationship was marked by bitter arguments.

  Within a week of her July 1989 murder, Nguyen attempted to commit suicide. Nguyen told detectives he was depressed over Arquette’s death and thought everyone blamed him. … Their apartment manager told police shortly after Arquette’s death that the couple argued frequently and that she once came to his apartment late at night because she was afraid. Arquette also told the manager she was going to force Nguyen to move out.

  Police reports show that Arquette’s friends also told detectives she had participated in insurance fraud with Nguyen in a staged car accident during a trip to California. There were three unexplained telephone calls made to California from Arquette’s apartment the day after she was shot and Nguyen, witnesses said, was at the hospital with her family.

  Reports show detectives didn’t follow up on the information until after the arrests of Miguel Garcia and Juvenal Escobedo. In the February interview with police, Nguyen denied any involvement in an insurance scam. He denied that Arquette was going to kick him out of the apartment or that he was a member of a Vietnamese gang.

  But police reports indicate Nguyen’s friends had a different story. Ray Padilla was with Nguyen when he first met Kaitlyn Arquette about a year before her death. It was Padilla who talked to police about the alleged California insurance scam. Padilla told police Arquette didn’t use drugs, but Nguyen’s friends in California were cocaine dealers.

  Albuquerque Journal, April 24, 1991


  by Suzanne Burks and Mike Gallagher

  Miguel Juan Garcia, 19, walked out of the Bernalillo County Detention Center at about four P.M. (today), after fifteen months in jail. Carrying a Bible and a garbage bag full of his belongings, Garcia said he felt “blessed” to be free…

  District Attorney Bob Schwartz said he dropped the charges because “there’s been some erosion in the state’s case … and then there seemed to be this other angle while the state’s case was dwindling.”

  He said the new angle was “the emergence of these other facts regarding her association with this group of Vietnamese.”

  He said he informed police homicide Sgt. Ruth Lowe Tuesday that he was dropping the charges and that Lowe said “they would be very interested in looking at the new angle.”

  Albuquerque Tribune, April 24, 1991


  by Tribune staff

  Two defense attorneys say Albuquerque police conducted a “shoddy” investigation into the shooting death of Kaitlyn Arquette.

  The investigation focused on two innocent men and ignored a possible connection to Vietnamese gang activity, attorneys Joseph Riggs and Michael Davis said.

  District Attorney Bob Schwartz said the decision to drop the charges was partially based on an investigation by Garcia’s attorneys. They discovered that Arquette’s relationship with a group of Vietnamese under investigation in a multimillion-dollar insurance scam may have led to her death.

  Had the case gone to trial as scheduled next week, Davis said, “We were going to kill them on the stand.”

  He said the scam involved filing insurance claims on accidents with rental cars. A car rented with Arquette’s credit card was involved in a California accident. After the accident a deposit of $1,500 appeared in Arquette’s bank account.

  Schwartz declined to comment on the quality of the police work.

  Albuquerque Journal, June 9, 1992


  by Colleen Heild

  Albuquerque author Lois Duncan paid a visit to her daughter Kaitlyn’s grave this past September. She brought along a copy of her latest manuscript – the moving chronicle of a mother’s search for her child’s killer.

  It was Duncan’s own story.

  “I set it on the grave marker and told her, ‘Happy birthday honey. This is my present to you. Mother is going to get your killer’ ”…


  I titled my book about our daughter’s murder One to the Wolves. The title was suggested by our older son, Brett, who compared his sister’s killers to wolves who invaded our family flock and made off with a lamb.

  Now, on Kait’s twenty-first birthday, I stood at her grave with the manuscript box in my hands.

  “This is your present, honey,” I told her. “Mother is going to get your killer.” Even to my own ears, the statement sounded ludicrous. How was I going to keep that promise? Although I had written a number of fictional suspense novels, I knew nothing about how real murder investigations were conducted. I looked down at the grave marker and whispered aloud the inscription that Kait’s oldest sister, Robin, had chosen for her epitaph, the heartbreaking lines that Mark Twain had written for his own daughter:

  Warm summer sun, shine kindly here.

  Warm southern wind, blow softly here.

  Green sod above, lie light, lie light.

  Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.

  It was autumn now, although the season was veiled in Indian summer and the breeze that caressed my face was as soft and unthreatening as the breeze that had ruffled Kait’s hair on that sweet summer evening two years before when she left our home, never to return. I closed my eyes against the slanted rays of the afternoon sun and concentrated on picturing my daughter as I wanted to remember her — not as she had looked in the hospital with her head swathed in bandages, but healthy and strong, radiant with life and vitality, her green eyes sparkling with mischief and dreams of adventure.

  That was how she had looked in her senior picture. She had selected that single picture out of dozens of poses.

  “Are you sure you want to use that one?” I had asked her doubtfully. “It makes you look like you’re hiding a naughty secret.”

  “It’s how I want people to remember me,” Kait had responded.

  In retrospect, I thought, what a strange thing to say! Was it possible she had experienced some sort of premonition? Or was it only that the picture was startlingly glamorous?

  I’d enclosed a copy of that photo in the box with the manuscript in case a publisher wanted to use it on the cover.

  When I left the cemetery, I drove to the post office, arriving just before the “closed” sign went up on the door. It seemed terribly important that Kait’s story be mailed on her birthday.

  By the time I got back to the rented town house where my husband Don and I had been living since we had been driven out of our family home by threats to the rest of us following the arrest of three Hispanic suspects, Don had arrived home from work and was seated at the kitchen table, thumbing through the mail.

  “Do you need help bringing in groceries?” he asked me.

  “I haven’t been shopping,” I told him. “I’ve come from th
e post office. I mailed off the manuscript.”

  There was a moment’s silence while Don digested that information.

  Then he said, “Don’t you think you’re jumping the gun? Kait’s story doesn’t have an ending.”

  “Getting her story out there where people can read it may be our only chance of getting an ending,” I said. “The police have washed their hands of the case, so the book won’t hurt their investigation. Maybe it will bring informants out of the woodwork.”

  “Before that can happen you’ll need to find a publisher,” Don said. “Who’s going to publish a true crime story that doesn’t end with a conviction?”

  When my agent received the manuscript, she had the same reaction.

  “I’ve read it,” she told me. “It’s a chilling story, but there isn’t any conclusion. All those unanswered questions are flapping in the wind. Who was the triggerman? Did he act on his own or was he hired? Is there a link between the Hispanic suspects and the Vietnamese group? Did Kait truly have a secret second boyfriend named Rod and, if so, where is he? What about all those psychic readings about Kait’s having seen a prominent citizen involved in a drug transaction at a ‘Desert Castle’? How can we expect anybody to accept that?”

  “I can’t create an ending when there isn’t one,” I said. “All I can do is describe events as they occurred. Please, won’t you submit the story anyway?” I didn’t think I could bear it if she told me she wouldn’t.

  “I’ll submit it, but don’t get your hopes up,” my agent told me. “I’ll try your usual publisher first, since they have a vested interest in your teenage suspense novels. But I have to warn you that your track record with young people isn’t going to carry much weight with the adult department.”