Bulletin Board

Albuquerque Police Department
Homicide Investigations

The Albuquerque Police Department, Homicide Division,  agreed to answer a list of frequently asked questions by murder victim's family members.  We were pleased that they took the time to answer the questions put together by members of our group.   Lt. Loy put us in touch with Sgt. Bev Sandoval and Sgt. Greg Sanchez, and they in turn compiled the answers with other homicide detectives.

We extend our sincerest thanks to the homicide division for their cooperation and we are very hopeful that they will answer any new questions which may arise in the future.

When a murder occurs what is the procedure for calling in homicide detectives. How many detectives are called out to the scene? Who is in charge of the crime scene? Who determines what is to be collected as evidence?

This will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.  Normally there will be three Violent Crimes Detectives, two from Homicide and one from either Sex Crimes or Robbery.  The case will be the responsibility of the primary Homicide Detective on call.  The Criminalistics Major Crime Scene Team will also be called out.  The Homicide Sergeant will be in charge of the investigation and the Criminalistics Sergeant will be in charge of the actual crime scene.  The evidence is collected, processed, and tagged by Criminalistics personnel.  Violent Crimes and Criminalistics personnel jointly decide what evidence is collected.

During the critical first hours of an investigation how many detectives work on each case?

There are three detectives and a supervisor on call for each call out.  Each case is looked at individually and the supervisor determines if additional personnel are needed.

What is the structure of the homicide division, from Chief of Police to the homicide detective?

The Chain Of Command is as follows;  Chief of Police, Deputy Chief of police, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant, and Detective.

How many detectives are in the Homicide Group? On average how many cases does each detective have to handle at one time?

There are currently nine detectives and two sergeants assigned to the Homicide Unit.  The case load varies from 4 to 12.

Is there Statute Of Limitations on a murder?

There is no Statue Of Limitations on murder.

Do you have a cold case squad?

We do not have a cold case squad.  If leads develop on a cold case then this case is assigned to a detective for follow up on the new leads.

What is the standard procedure or policy for notifying families?

We try and notify the family of the victim as soon as possible.   This is normally done by the District Attorney Victim Impact Representative and a detective from the Violent Crimes Section.

What does the family have a right to know? How will they be informed about the progress of an investigation?

We try and give the family the basic facts of the investigation as soon as possible.  The detective who is responsible for the investigation will keep the family informed of the progress of the investigation.  There will be times when the detective will not be able to share all of the details of the investigation because it could compromise the investigation.

When can the family get their loved ones personal effects? Who decides which personal effects are evidence (i.e., wallet, ID, clothing). If a case remains unsolved, how long is the evidence kept? Is there something the family should do if they want to be sure and get their loved ones possessions back in the future?

The final decision on the release or the holding of evidence rest with the District Attorney's Office.  Family members should make their request for the return of their loved ones personal effects known to the detective working the case and to the District Attorney's Office.

What reports are available to family members and when do they become available?

All copies of the reports are available once the detective has submitted the case in its final draft to the District Attorney's Office.

What can family members do to help in the investigation? Are they likely to be interviewed about their loved one? How have some families helped in previous investigations?

In most cases the family members can anticipate being interviewed.   If you have any information about the case, pass this on immediately to the detective working the case.  Do not try and act on this information on your own.

What do you wish family members would not do during the course of an investigation? What kind of problems have they caused in previous investigations?

Family members should not discuss the details of the case with people outside of the immediate family.  A lot of times people who are friends or acquaintances may also have some knowledge about the case and may insert information which they learned from the family into their own statement.  This will cause problems later on when this case goes to court.  There are times when friends or acquaintances of the family or victim may be involved in the murder and if they know the details of the investigation it may help them lead the investigation away from themselves.

Do superiors or others review cases during the course of an investigation?

The Homicide supervisors continually monitor the progress of the investigation and always review the final draft of the case.

Do you feel it could be helpful if the family hired their own lawyer to follow up with their loved ones investigation?

Not for the criminal investigation.  All information should be forwarded to the detective assigned to the case.

How does it affect the investigation when suspects invoke their rights? Do you still interview them with their lawyer?

A statement may not be taken from the suspect if he invokes his rights.  On occasion the suspect may choose to give a statement with his attorney present.

Is the family investigated as possible suspects in all cases?

In some cases the family may be investigated as suspects, it is on a case by case basis.

How does APD feel about families hiring a private detective to assist in an investigation? Is it possible for a private detective to assist the homicide detective with the investigation? If so, does an investigation come to a point where a private detective could help to solve a case?

Generally we do not encourage the use of a private investigator.   From our experience the private investigator does not turn up any information that the detective has not already found.  A private investigator may do something that will cause legal issues to come up at a later time.  (illegal entry, illegal searches, etc.)

What forensic resources are available to the homicide division? When will testing be done on evidence and who decides which evidence is tested. Do you wait for an arrest or an indictment of a suspect or do you do forensic testing during the course of the investigation?

There are numerous forensic tests that can be done. (i.e., serology, latent fingerprints, DNA, etc.)  These tests may be conducted if the detective, criminalist, and sometimes the assistant district attorney feel the test would be of benefit to the case and if the test is scientifically sound to do.  These tests may be done at any time during the investigation.

How does media attention on a particular case affect all homicide cases? In what instance will media attention hurt/help an investigation. Can the family help by getting media attention on their loved ones case?

The media can help some cases and can hurt others.  Frequently we will give the media information about a case so that hopefully witnesses will contact us or Crimestoppers with information.  Sometimes the media will go out and talk to neighbors in the area of the homicide and create false information and this will hurt the investigation.  The media may focus a lot on a certain type of murder and cause a lot of public outcry making this particular case a higher priority.

Can the family put up a reward? Does Crimestoppers offer a 1000.00 reward on all homicides? How could a reward fund help/hurt a case?

If the family chooses to offer a reward they may do so. Crimestoppers will pay for information received on homicides.  The amount will be determined by the Crimestoppers Board.

Who decides the priority of violent crime investigations? For instance, a high profile case in Albuquerque, like the Hollywood Video store murders, took precedence when all detectives were working on that case. Another example is the Halloween Skinhead beating case. A homicide detective took over that case and was told that it took precedence because APD neglected to respond to the beating. There was no murder involved but it was made a top priority. Can other homicide investigations suffer due to high profile media cases?

Every case is high priority when it is initially responded to.   As the detectives work the leads in the case it may either result in an arrest or a decrease in its priority.  There will be times when the chief or mayor may order a case be given priority over others.  We will not ignore other cases that are already being investigated.

What can/does APD do to make witnesses feel comfortable about coming forward with information? How can/does APD protect the witnesses. How often do suspects threaten witnesses? Can a witness's identity be protected?

This is a case by case situation.  We try to protect critical witnesses in the case by not using their identity, but when the case goes to trial the witnesses identity may be divulged.  We do not encounter suspects threatening witnesses too often, if they do, then they can be charged with intimidation of a witness.

In your experience how often is the family of the murder victim in danger?

This is very uncommon.

How does it make you feel when you put in so much effort to solve a murder case, only to see the perpetrator gets a minimal sentence for his crime?

This is a very frustrating feeling not only for the investigating detective but the entire Homicide Unit.

What resources do you feel are lacking in the homicide division that would really improve your ability to solve cases. Do we need more homicide or violent crime detectives? Do you feel that pay raises or more benefits are needed to improve staffing?

We could always use more personnel and updated equipment.  More training for the existing detectives would be great.  An increase in our operating budget would also be beneficial.

It must be difficult for you to detach yourself from the gruesome scenes you must observe and to deal with the emotionally distraught family members. Do you receive any support from the department for the stress you must endure in the course of your career?

The department does retain a staff of psychologists which are available for all of the officers on the department.  The psychological services unit conducts critical incident stress debriefing sessions for officers.

Note from APD: The answers to the above questions are in general and a lot of times are on a case by case basis.

Related Links

Albuquerque Police Department
Albuquerque Police Officers Association

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