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April 02, 2022
American writer and journalist, Lois Duncan, was popular for her young-adult thriller fiction books, most notably her 1973 book "I Know What You Did Last Summer" which was later adapted for the big screen. Duncan later penned a non-fiction book in 1992 titled: "Who Killed My Daughter?" after her 18-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette, was shot dead on an Albuquerque street in the summer of 1989 while driving home from a friend’s house.
Police deemed the murder to be a random drive-by shooting and the case went unsolved long after the slain teenager’s mother passed.
In disagreement with the police's conclusion, Duncan conducted her own investigation into her daughter’s murder and interviewed Kaitlyn's friends. Duncan had a strong suspicion that Kaitlyn’s live-in boyfriend, Dung Nguyen, had murdered her, as Kaitlyn was planning to break up with him. Duncan alleged that Nguyen was part of an organized crime gang and part of an interstate insurance fraud ring which Kaitlyn had allegedly said she would expose.
Explaining the complicated fraud operation, Duncan wrote:
“An Quoc Le, the Albuquerque control man for the insurance scam, was Dung's alibi for the night of the shooting. The capper in Orange County, CA, has been identified as Bao N. Tran, housemate of convicted arsonist, Hong Phuc Duy Van. An Quoc Le would hire people from Albuquerque to fly to California, rent or steal cars, and then stage wrecks, claiming fake injuries. Bao Tran would pay the participants $1,500, while he and the crooked doctors and lawyers would rake in the Big Money. At our insistence, the case detective interviewed Dung, who confessed to personal involvement in two staged wrecks, one of which Kait witnessed. Dung subsequently told Deputy D.A. Susan Riedel that he knew of up to twenty other people in Albuquerque who were also involved. APD did not question these people and did not share the information with law enforcement authorities in California. Several members of this crime ring have since been identified as car thieves, interstate drug dealers and participants in a racket to steal and sell computer chips.”
Albuquerque police ruled out Dung Nguyen of having any involvement after he was evaluated to determine if he had recently fired a gun and it was proven that he had not. Nguyen attempted to commit suicide within a week of his girlfriend’s murder, saying he felt depressed and blamed for her death.
Lois Duncan founded the Resource Center for Victims of Violent Deaths in Albuquerque. The centers homepage reads:
“As a Violent Crimes Victims Advocate, we support the victims and families affected by violent crime. We also assist victims of attempted homicide and families of “undetermined deaths cases” — classified that way because there is insufficient information to make a cause determination. These victims and families are equally affected and have no public resources dedicated to their needs — these are the people we serve.”
Kaitlyn’s sister, Kerry Arquette, would go on to become a criminologist.
Although Lois Duncan had her own theories, she went to the grave not knowing the truth about what happened to her daughter. Duncan died in June 2016.
Kaitlyn Arquette was not the only young woman to be murdered in the area in the late eighties- Twenty-one-year-old New Mexico student, Alethea Oakley, was murdered while walking home from a party in the summer of 1988. She was stabbed multiple times and dragged herself to a nearby doorstep before dying later at a hospital as a result of her injuries.
A couple of months later in September 1988, a thirteen-year-old girl, Stell Gonzales, was shot dead in the street while out walking with a friend.
In July 2021, 54-year-old Paul Apodaca confessed to the three murders and admitted to multiple rapes after being arrested on a probation violation. He was on probation after pleading guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Apodaca was also homeless at the time of his arrest. He was supposed to be staying at the West Side Homeless Shelter while awaiting transfer to an in-patient program, however, according to his probation officer, Apodaca neglected to check in to the homeless shelter and data from his electronic tags revealed that he had been sleeping rough on Rio Grande and Central.
In his confession, he told police that in the summer of 1988, he had been working as a security guard at the Technical Vocational Institute when he spotted Oakley walking alone. He followed her in his car and stabbed her in her shoulder and side. He told police that he intended to threaten her with a knife and rape her due to his "hatred for women".
When asked about the motive behind his horrific actions against women he told officers that he had always hated women.
He continued: “Because growing up I seen men treating women bad and they, they go for the bad guys, and I try to be nice and be good and they just didn’t want that.”
Apodaca was later charged with murder.
Investigators confirmed that Apodaca was the killer after interviewing his old employer and neighbors who remained in the area. The killer resided in the area at the time of the murder and lived with his brother, Mark Apodaca. Police located a piece of evidence that was recovered from the scene in 1988; a wristwatch with a sun and moon motif that Apodaca told them he had left behind after stabbing his victim multiple times. The watch, he said, was a gift from his aunt.
It was later revealed that Paul Apodaca was hovering around the scene of Kaitlyn Arquette’s death after allegedly shooting her himself. He watched police and emergency services respond to the scene of the crumpled red Ford Tempo that Kaitlyn had smashed into a pole after being shot twice in the head. Despite his presence at the scene, he was not interviewed.
In 1995, Paul’s brother Mark Apodaca was convicted of murder. Soon after, Paul Apodaca was sentenced to 20 years in prison after raping his 14-year-old stepsister. In court, he said he committed the rape against his own sibling so he could go to prison with his brother. The brothers were split up and sent to separate facilities.
Apodaca was indicted by a grand jury in Oakley's murder in August 2021 and indicted for Gonzales' murder several months later in December 2021. He was indicted last week for Arquette's murder.
January 17, 2023