Paul Apodaca was sentenced in the killings of Stella Gonzales, left inset, Kaitlyn Arquette, second from left inset, and Althea Oakeley, right inset. (Victim photos from Albuquerque Police Department; virtual courtroom screenshot of the defendant from Albuquerque, New Mexico, CBS and FOX affiliate KRQE)
The serial killer in New Mexico responsible for the killings of two teens and a young woman in the late 1980s has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Paul Apodaca, 55, learned his fate in the killings of 13-year-old Stella Gonzales, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette, and 21-year-old Althea Oakeley, police said in a news release.
In a virtual court hearing on Thursday, Stella’s mother lashed out at the killer, local affiliate KRQE reported.
“You have no idea what you took from me,” she said. “Since the day you killed her, there’s an emptiness in my heart that can never be filled. May God forgive me, but I hope you go to hell.”
Apodaca, who said he lost his father to gun violence, cried.
“I apologize with all my heart for the pain I’ve caused,” he said.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina, who grew up knowing Oakeley’s family and shared the news about the arrest, reacted to the sentencing.
“These heinous crimes haunted three families for more than 30 years, leaving behind a wake of pain and suffering,” he said in a news release. “I hope all the families can now move forward and find closure in a long-awaited resolution to their nightmare.”
The victims were killed in 1988 and 1989.
Gonzales was walking with a friend along Central near Tingley Beach when Apodaca drove up and shot her to death in the early morning hours on Sept. 9, 1988.
Oakeley, a University of New Mexico student, was stabbed as she walked home from a fraternity party after an argument with her boyfriend on June 22, 1988, according to the Albuquerque Police Department. She got upset and walked to the house she shared with her brother, officers said. Witnesses heard screaming, and she was found stabbed outside a home at 1320 Buena Vista Drive S.E.
In 1989, Arquette was driving near Lomas and Broadway when Apodaca pulled up next to her and shot her to death, prosecutors said.
The murder made national news. Arquette was the daughter of Lois Duncan, the author who penned the popular books “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Killing Mr. Griffin.”
The cases went cold for more than 30 years until Apodaca, arrested on a probation violation while homeless in July 2021, confessed to police. Authorities said he had no ties or connection to the victims but knew key details about each killing.
He was charged with first-degree murder in all three cases, authorities said.
As Law&Crime reported, Duncan was heavily critical of the police investigation into her daughter’s death and, at one point, hired a private investigator.
That private detective, Pat Caristo, told Albuquerque NBC affiliate KOB that Apodaca had long been a suspect and that he once spoke to the defendant in jail on unrelated charges.
“He gave no hesitation — that he was at that scene,” the private eye told the TV station in September 2021. “He was, again, pleasant, cooperative. There were two times when he wasn’t. And one when I asked him who was with him — ‘What do you mean somebody was with me? Who said somebody was with me? Nobody was with me!’ And the other was — ‘How did you find me?’ They were interesting words to me, like you weren’t supposed to find me.”
Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
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