|MISSING FEMALES One rationale provided for the "no-body-required" rule is that a murderer should not be entitled to acquittal simply because he successfully disposes of a victim's body. "That is one form of success for which society has no reward."|
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serial killer, el paso, 9 dead or missing
2 decades later, families of 3 missing girls still searching for answers
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 02/15/2010 12:00:00 AM MST
A cold case detective in New Mexico is looking into the disappearance of Marjorie Knox, a 14-year-old who vanished in 1987.
Mike Ulsh, an investigator with the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department in Las Cruces, met earlier this month with El Paso detectives to review their file on the missing girl.
Although Knox lived in Chaparral, N.M., El Paso police long suspected she may have met with danger while in El Paso. They also believed convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood may have possessed helpful information.
"We are interested in talking to anyone who may have information about Marjorie's disappearance, including Wood," Ulsh said. "We are willing to do anything we can to resolve the case."
Knox was the first in a string of young women who disappeared in 1987, and who were linked to Wood or to his murdered victims.
Melissa Alaniz, 13, and Cheryl Lynn Vasquez-Dismukes, 19, who lived in Northeast El Paso, also vanished in 1987. Relatives said they never saw or heard from the two young missing women again.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said the missing girls are part of the Police Department's cold cases. Since then, except for their families, they have been all but forgotten.
Knox was last seen on Feb. 14, 1987, a Sunday, after attending a Valentine's Day party at Veterans Park in the Northeast. The park has sports fields, a library, gym, swimming pool and recreation center.
Witnesses said then that they saw a man who resembled Wood pull up in a small truck at the park and talk to Knox. The trail went cold after that.
Police also said someone saw Knox walking at 3 a.m. on Chaparral Street in Chaparral, N.M., a road that is pitch black at that hour.
If Wood knows anything, he has never revealed it to authorities.
The state paroled him on Jan. 15, 1987, after he served seven years of two concurrent 20-year sentences for rape. His victims were girls of 13 and 19. Both crimes occurred in Northeast El Paso.
Grand jurors later indicted him in the killings of six young women in 1987. Their bodies were buried in shallow graves in the Northeast desert.
Wood, 52, denied killing anyone. He also denied being in Chaparral.
Authorities said his victims were Dawn Smith, 14; Angelica Frausto, 17; Karen Baker, 20; Rosa Maria "Janet" Casio, 24; Desiree Wheatley, 15; and Ivy Susanna Williams, 23.
Ricardo Segovia, a former Doña Ana County sheriff's investigator, said then investigators were working on the assumption that Knox may have met the same end as the others.
Segovia, who is now a federal officer, said Wood had lived in Chaparral "off and on." Other residents in the rural community said Wood stayed with a father and his son until they threw him out.
"He didn't live close (to Knox), but he was seen with her on several occasions," Segovia said.
According to police reports, the 14-year-old Smith also lived in Chaparral for a short time with a man and a woman who socialized with Wood.
Wheatley lived in Chaparral before her family moved to El Paso. She rode a Gadsden district school bus with Knox.
Before she vanished, Knox was living with her family on Byrum Street in Chaparral. She was 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 115 pounds, had brown eyes and brown hair.
Her father, James Knox, who died two years ago, circulated a flier offering a $500 reward. The flier said she may have bleached her hair blond and may have been pregnant.
The last thing the Knox family knew was that Marjorie had gone to a friend's house in Chaparral.
Friends and relatives described Knox as a playful and active girl who liked horses and sports.
"She always liked swinging in trees when she was smaller," her father once said.
At least one of her close friends in Chaparral believes she is still alive. But police need proof before they can rule out an accident or foul play, and be able to close out the case.
Ideally, Ulsh said, police try to obtain a DNA sample from close relatives of the missing persons. The sample can be used to match it to someone who later turns up alive; it also can be used to match to unidentified or unclaimed remains.
Ulsh said Knox was removed from the National Crime Information Center database in 1994, but he does not know why. NCIC is a 24-hour criminal justice index available to law enforcement. It includes a list of about 100,000 missing persons.
"Sometimes people are removed because they reach the age of majority (adulthood) and are found and indicate that they do not want to come forward," Ulsh said. "We did not find any documentation to indicate why this happened in her case. As far as we're concerned, we have not accounted for Marjorie."
Knox would have turned 21 years old in 1994.
Alicia Alaniz, Melissa Alaniz's mother, said she has wondered every single day what became of her daughter.
"I've called the El Paso police to ask about the status of the investigation, but no one calls me back," she said. "The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children calls me from time to time to ask about Melissa. The center recently provided me with an age-progression picture of her."
The Texas Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Clearinghouse also carries Melissa Alaniz on its list, along with her picture.
She was wearing a black Iron Maiden T-shirt, jeans and sneakers the day she left her house on March 7, 1987, to play video games at a neighborhood convenience store off Rushing. She was 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighed 105 pounds, and had brown eyes and brown hair.
Two weeks before -- only about a week after Knox was reported missing -- Alaniz had run away after a family argument. She returned home after two days.
Alicia Alaniz pulled out several keepsakes, including a colorful hand-written thank-you card from Melissa. A remodeling project had given her a spacious room.
"I'm just hoping that someone out there who knows something will come forward," Alicia Alaniz said.
The Alaniz family lived near Desiree Wheatley's home on Tiber, and both Alicia Alaniz and Wheatley's mom, Marcia Fulton, worked at Rockwell Industries. James Knox, Marjorie's father, also worked for Rockwell.
Wheatley and Alaniz attended H.E. Charles Middle School in Northeast El Paso, and had friends in common. A police report said they once argued.
Wood lived in the same neighborhood near both girls.
Jessica Leeah Srader, a former school chum of Melissa's, said kids from the neighborhood often met at the Alaniz house to play and socialize.
"We used to dress up like rock stars -- I think we were really into Heart at the time -- we played 'Never' all the time," said Srader, 38, now an assistant state attorney general in Alaska. "We would try to dress like Ann and Nancy Wilson. We would put on some spandex, lots of makeup and tease up our hair. We used lots of Aqua Net."
Michelle "Missie" Gall, 38, another former El Pasoan who knew Alaniz, said the girl's disappearance shocked and frightened everyone.
"I remember her mother and brother going up and down the block looking for her," Gall said. "She was a happy-go-lucky girl. I still don't have a clue as far as what happened to her. I would like to think that maybe she ran away and is alive somewhere today."
Paul Strelzin, former principal of H.E. Charles Middle School, said campus staff had to chase Wood away several times.
"Wood would be parked in a van in a school no-parking zone," Strelzin said. "One of the cheerleaders told us she saw him hanging out near the campus many times, and that Wood had gotten in trouble before with her sister."
Retired detective John Guerrero, who worked on the police task force that investigated the 1987 murders and disappearances, said Wood used a van belonging to someone else to take pictures of young girls at the school.
Back then, Wood also owned a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle and drove a small, beige Nissan truck. He claimed that people probably confused him with someone else who looked like him and had similar vehicles.
Guerrero said Wood was the main police suspect in the three unsolved disappearances.
After Wood's arrest in October 1987, the series of disappearances and murders of young women in Northeast El Paso came to a halt.
He appealed his 1993 death sentence for the capital murder conviction, alleging in court documents that he is mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 outlawed executions of mentally retarded convicts.
Vasquez-Dismukes, 19, vanished June 28, 1987, after buying cigarettes for a friend at a Circle K store at McCombs and Sarah Anne. She was seen talking to Wood that day in the store parking lot.
She was 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 105 pounds and had blondish hair. She was wearing new blue jeans, a white T-shirt with cartoon characters on it and high-top tennis shoes.
She had worked at a fast-food restaurant on Dyer Street and at the Matador Plastics factory, also in Northeast El Paso. Friends said men found her attractive and charming.
A manager at the eatery saw Wood talk to Vasquez-Dismukes once and warned her to stay away from him.
Her brother, Pete Vasquez, said his family would like to end the anguish and find out what happened to her. Not knowing has taken a toll on their mother and the other siblings.
"We loved Cheryl very much," he said.
The Vasquez family prefers not to discuss Cheryl's short marriage by proxy to Robert Dismukes. Dismukes' mother, Erika Dismukes, and sister, Mona Dismukes, defend Wood to this day.
Robert Dismukes was in prison for burglary and attempted murder of a woman. In 1982, when he was 18, Dismukes was part of a large group arrested in more than 30 break-ins in Northeast El Paso.
Relatives of Vasquez-Dismukes said they did not know why Cheryl married Robert Dismukes. One of the speculations was that he may have sought her help to prevent U.S. authorities from deporting him. She disappeared a week after the proxy marriage.
Erika Dismukes said people have seen Cheryl alive but has not offered any proof. She also said her son lives and works as a trucker in Germany.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6140.
Re: serial killer, el paso, 9 dead or missing
Convicted serial killer Wood granted stay of execution
Posted: Aug 19, 2009 06:57 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2009 08:41 PM
Texas AG: Wood not mentally retarded
READ the Texas Attorney General's response to Wood's appeal
Convicted serial killer Wood maintains innocence
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Convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood has been granted a delay in his execution, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told ABC-7.
Wood filed an appeal Tuesday claiming he should not be executed because he is mentally retarded.
In response, the Texas Attorney General's Office filed a response stating the claim was without merit.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sided with Wood's lawyers, saying late Wednesday that Wood is entitled to a hearing to pursue claims he's mentally impaired and ineligible for execution under U.S. Supreme Court guidelines.
Wood was scheduled to die by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, on Thursday for killing six girls and young women in the summer of 1987 and dumping their bodies in the Northeast El Paso desert.
Now Wood remains on death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas.
Dolph Quijano, Wood's former defense attorney, told ABC-7 he filed an affidavit on behalf of Wood for his appeal, which was handled by the Innocence Project in Austin.
"The mental retardation aspect gives everybody problems when it comes to (execution). I did an affidavit about David Wood's mental ability and how it affected our ability to defend him. (Attorney Michael Byrne with the The Innocence Project) called me and I told them I'd be happy to do whatever I can do to save this guy's life, short of lying," Quijano said.
The Attorney General's Office said that "a person afflicted with mental retardation could never have carried out a crime of this magnitude." They also argued that Wood's claim could have been presented earlier. Wood's attorneys cite IQ scores from 1980.
Re: serial killer, el paso, 9 dead or missing
David Wood indicted in desert deaths
Ramon Renteria reported today that David Leonard Wood , who was convicted of killing 6 six young women in 1992, has been scheduled to die at the state prison in Huntsville.
Convicted rapist now in state prison
By Gary Scharrer
El Paso Times
0153441_4 Convicted rapist David Leonard Wood was indicted Friday in he murders of six girls and women whose bodies were found almost three years ago in shallow graves scattered around the Northeast El Paso desert.
The desert bodies case had horrified El Pasoans and frustrated police since the first two bodies were found in September 1987, although officers considered Wood, 33, a prime suspect almost from the beginning.
Wood – serving a 50-year sentence in a state prison at Huntsville for a 1987 rape near where the six bodies were found – could face the death penalty if convicted. He was charged with capital murder in a six-count indictment returned by an El Paso County grand jury.
“Unless he gets the chair, I won’t be satisfied,” said Hope Frausto, whose daughter, Angelica Frausto, was among the desert bodies victims.
El Paso District Attorney Steve Simmons, who plans personally to prosecute Wood, would not discuss evidence. Nor would he characterize the strength of his case, except to say: “We don’t take any case to the grand jury unless we have the sufficient elements to prove the case.”
The grim discoveries in the desert began when El Paso Water Utilities workers stumbled across the first two bodies Sept. 4, 1987. The other graves were found during the next few months, as police and volunteers searched the area on foot and in helicopters.
Wood, who has maintained his innocence, filed a $20.5 million lawsuit against El Paso police this year, contending he had been harrassed by detectives investigating the desert bodies case.
Wood, was arrested Oct. 23, 1987, after police saw a pickup truck matching the description of one used by a man who had picked up a prostitute two months earlier and raped her in the same area of desert where the bodies had been found. It was that rape, which occurred before the first of the bodies was found, for which Wood was convicted in March 1978.
Police originally had considered Wood a possible suspect in the desert deaths because of a history of sex offenses, but they would not confirm that publicly. He had been paroled in January 1987 after serving seven years for raping a 19-year-old and a 13-year-old in 1980.
The years of waiting for the slayings to be solved have been agonizing for the victims’ families.
Marcia Wheatley’s 15 year old daughter, Desiree, disappeared June 2, 1987.
“This is what I’ve been working for, is to get the one responsible indicted,” she said. “This is step one. It has been 3 years, one month and 11 days.”
Desiree’s body was found in one of the desert graves Oct. 29. 1987.
Wheatley since has dedicated her life to keeping the investigation moving forward.
“I couldn’t say, ‘OK, she’s dead. That’s it.’ I had too make sure the one responsible wouldn’t be about to do it again to somebody else, and that’s what I’ve been fighting for,” Wheatley said.
“I never gave up hope. Hope was all that I had. It’s hard to give up the only thing that you have going for you.”
The indictment alleges that Wood used “the same scheme and course of conduct” to kill:
Ivy Susanna Williams, 23, May 30, 1987.
Desiree Wheatley, 15, June 2, 1987.
Karen Baker, 20, June 5, 1987.
Angelica Frausto, 17, Aug. 8, 1987.
Rosa Maria Casio, 24, Aug. 12, 2987.
Dawn Marie Smith, 14, Aug. 28. 1987.
The indictment lists a cause of death only for Williams. The grand jury alleged that Wood killed her by stabbing her “with a sharp instrument.”
In the five other cases, death was attributed to “some manner and by some means, instrument or weapon unknown …”
Posted by Trish Long at 02:22 PM | Permalin
Re: serial killer, el paso, 9 dead or missing
Hostile, unstable killer
El Paso serial killer on death row led stormy life
Special report part 2: The execution of David L. Wood
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 08/10/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT
* Desert Deaths - Following the execution of David Leonard Wood
* 3-part test can spare killer from execution
* Serial killer David Leonard Wood awaits court date
* Convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood settles in at El Paso County Jail
* Jeannette Brown describes her ordeal with convicted killer David L. Wood
* Judge in '92 trial to hear new court case for convicted David L. Wood
* Lawyers for convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood file to get new judge
* New hearing set in Wood case
* Convicted serial killer David L. Wood's mental capacity is life, death issue
* Convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood's mental-health records missing
* Family awaits closure in mom's murder
* New Mexico slayings make family relive horror
* Victim: Dawn Smith
* Victim: Ivy Susanna Williams
* Victim: Desiree Wheatley
* Victim: Angelica Jeannette Frausto
* Victim: Maria Rosa Casio and Karen Baker
* El Paso man to be executed Aug. 20 for slayings of 6
Photo gallery: Desert deaths
EL PASO -- Convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood led a troubled life marked by anger, frustration and perhaps even a learning disability.
Wood, 52, has been on death row for 17 years. The state plans to execute him Aug. 20 for the 1987 murders of six girls and young women in the desert outside El Paso. Police also suspected Wood in the disappearances of three other teenage girls, all of whom vanished in 1987.
His father, Leo Wood, who worked at the El Paso Electric Co., said in 1992 that Wood had a rough and unstable childhood. He said Wood's mother was mentally ill, and that he divorced her after a stormy 24-year marriage.
During times the parents were separated, David Wood and his siblings stayed in foster homes. The senior Wood described his son as a hyperactive child who required medications.
David Wood has maintained his innocence in the murders, but declined requests to be interviewed.
While with his parents, Wood lived in a middle-class neighborhood in Northeast El Paso. For a brief time, he also lived in Chaparral, N.M. All but one of his victims had ties to those two areas.
Wood told a court-appointed psychiatrist in the 1980s that he became sexually active when he was 12, and began using alcohol and marijuana in his early adolescent years. He dropped out of Parkland
High School in the ninth grade. Wood tried to join the military, but was rejected.
Another psychiatrist, this one from Stanford University, testified at Wood's 1992 capital murder trial. He said Wood had a below-average IQ of 68.
Police, though, said Wood was a cunning predator and a longtime lawbreaker before his crimes escalated to murder.
Wood served more than two years in prison, from April 1977 to December 1979, after being convicted of indecency with a child.
Soon after his parole, he was in trouble again, this time charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old and a 19-year-old. The attacks occurred eight days apart, in March 1980. Wood knew the older teenager but the other girl was a stranger.
A psychiatrist's report after the two sexual assaults said Wood "sees relationships as conflicted. It appears that there is considerable hostility as well as paranoid insecurity."
Convicted of the two sex crimes, he served another seven years in prison.
The state paroled Wood for the second time in January 1987. His return to El Paso coincided with a crime rampage in the city.
Teenage girls and young women, nine in all, began disappearing, mostly in Northeast El Paso. Six bodies turned up in the desert.
The murder victims were Rosa Maria Casio, 24; Ivy Susanna Williams, 23; Karen Baker, 20; Angelica Frausto, 17; Desiree Wheatley, 15; and Dawn Marie Smith, 14.
Police also suspected Wood in the disappearances of Marjorie Knox, 14, Cheryl Vasquez-Dismukes, 19, and Melissa Alaniz, 14. All three vanished in 1987.
Wood roamed Northeast El Paso in a truck or on a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He had several tattoos, wore his hair long and packed a buck knife.
Roy Hazelwood, an FBI profiler whom El Paso police consulted in 1989, said the killer buried the bodies near where he lived. At the time, the profiler did not know Wood was a suspect.
Hazelwood said the killer projected a "macho" image to mask feelings of inadequacy. Wood often kept company with teenage girls.
Pete Vasquez is the brother of one of the missing woman, Cheryl Vasquez-Dismukes. Vasquez said Wood attended the Crossroads Church, which had an outreach ministry for teenagers.
"I don't recall specifically meeting David Wood, but a week or two after I started attending, the group was asked to pray for him because he had been arrested," Vasquez said.
Now, he says, he hopes Wood will disclose any details about his missing sister in the 10 days before the state executes him.
Wood did not respond to requests asking him if he knew what happened to Vasquez-Dismukes or the other missing girls, Alaniz and Knox.
Wood worked in a furniture store and did odd jobs, such as yard work for real estate companies. His friends said he frequented bars and nightclubs along Dyer, Alameda and Montana, and was especially fond of clubs that featured topless dancers.
His former cellmates said Wood claimed he was a drug dealer, and that some of his victims sold drugs for him.
Though medical professionals described Wood as dysfunctional, others say his physical appearance provided him with a robust social life.
"Girls loved him and he loved girls," said Erika Dismukes, mother-in-law of Cheryl Vasquez-Dismukes. "He was good-looking and women were attracted to him."
Wood lived with a girlfriend in 1987, while El Paso's murder count escalated. A dancer in clubs, she would eventually testify at his murder trial.
Another woman, a prostitute and drug addict, helped build the state's case against Wood. In 1987, she accused Wood of tying her to a tree and sexually assaulting her in the Northeast desert, between Dyer and McCombs. This gave police a way to take one of their prime suspects in the serial killings off the streets.
Found guilty of the sexual assault in March 1988, Wood was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
By then, Wood knew he was a suspect in the desert killings. He said he was a victim of false accusations.
"You're never going to see me say, 'Hey, I'm the guy,' for the simple fact of my pride. I'm not going to confess to something I didn't do," he said.
While incarcerated, he married Valerie Ann Trader in May 1988. He divorced her three years later. As far as anyone knows, Wood never fathered any children.
In 1990, Wood filed a lawsuit against El Paso police, accusing them of harassment and making him an "escape goat" because they could not solve the murders. His suit went nowhere, as he was tried and convicted of six of the murders.
During a recess in Wood's murder trial, Dolph Quijano, one of two defense lawyers, told the judge Wood needed a sedative because he was coming "unglued" over testimony he disagreed with.
But when Wood had the chance to take an oath and dispute what witnesses had said, he stayed silent, declining to testify.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6140.
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