Cold case: The unsolved disappearance of Teresa Reyes - missing from Albuquerque, New Mexico
Every parent's worst nightmare
It's every parent's worst nightmare: your teenage daughter sneaks out and never sneaks back in.
On a breezy summer night in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 17-year-old Teresa Reyes snuck out and her family has been waiting 14 years for her to sneak back in.
On July 1, 1998, Teresa, nicknamed “Terry”, came home after a day out with a friend, took her medication, fixed a snack of fries and a soda, kissed her parents good night, and shut her bedroom door.
At 3 a.m., her mother was awakened by the sound of that door blowing in the breeze wafting through the apartment.
The door banged open and closed again and again as if willing Terry’s mother to get up and look inside. Her mother, also named Teresa, went to check on her.
When she didn't see her, she assumed she was in the bathroom. Then she noticed the front door was unlocked. She knew she had locked it before bed.
Inside Teresa's room, the light, television, and radio were all on and Terry had left behind her purse, makeup, money, medication, watch, and jewelry as well as the unconsumed plate of fries and soda.
The only things Terry had with her were an old pair of white sandals and the clothes on her back.
Because Terry had left before, her mother waited for the call that always came, - Terry letting her mother know she was safe and coming home. The call never came.
Dismissed as a runaway
The elder Teresa Reyes waited a day for the call and then made her own call to Albuquerque police. She was told to wait 72 more hours before she could file a missing person's report.
Monday was 72 hours later, the report was dated July 20, 1998, and listed Terry as a "runaway” (Krueger, 2002).
Three prior reports had been filed on Terry: one in February 1997, one a few months prior in April of 98, and one in which she and another patient ran off from a hospital in 96.
Terry had been hospitalized there after carving two or three gashes into her own arm during an argument with her mother. Terry had violent mood swings brought on by her bipolar disorder.
She took Tegretol, Zoloft, and Ritalin three times daily to combat her chemical imbalances and ADD.
She was a special education student at Sandia High where she was taunted with cruel names like “retard” for her learning disabilities (Krueger, 2002).
The police told Reyes her daughter was a runaway, therefore, they could not begin an investigation for six months.
Reyes tried to explain that she didn't believe Teresa had run away this time because she took nothing with her and desperately needed her medication but to no avail. She was told to report back in six months.
Six months later, she was informed that because Terry was now 18, the case was being referred to the Missing Persons division (a division so small it had one overworked civilian employee) (Reyes, n.d.).
Reyes started looking for help elsewhere, from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to the FBI. But once they heard from Albuquerque police about Teresa's runaway status, her pleas fell on deaf ears (Reyes, n.d.).
Although Teresa had left before, she had never been gone for more than a few days and never failed to call her mother and let her know she was safe and coming home.
Her mother is certain that she would never leave behind her two older siblings and family. In June 2000, her private investigator tried to contact police about the case but the detective had been assigned to another unit, and the reports could not be found.
Terry was invited to a party behind this Phillips 66 gas station.
A fateful encounter?
At this time, the PI interviewed the friend she had been with whom the police had failed to interview before.
Tyffani Sedillo was Terry's close friend and cousin and they had been together for most of that fateful day (Reyes, n.d.).
According to Sedillo, they had visited friends near 4th Street and Griegos Avenue before stopping at a John Brooks Supermart to use a payphone.
While Terry waited outside in Tyffani's silver colored Ford Taurus, she was approached by some older boys from a cream-colored van.
There were five of them, described as "Mexican gang" types, about 20 or 21 with the stereotypical shaved heads and southward baggy pants. One was heavy set, one was skinny and two were, by Tyffani's estimation "Ok looking."
They invited the girls to a party being held at a residence behind a Phillips 66 gas station at Fourth Street and Montano Road Northwest. Tyffani declined the invitation but Terry seemed interested, writing the phone number on a napkin with Tyffani's lipliner and saying she would go with them later.
Although the two didn't discuss the encounter, Tyffani thinks Terry may have tried later on to contact the men. She believed she could identify the skinny one who had come on to Terry (Good, 2008).
Ms. Reyes' private investigator located the housing complex where the party was supposed to be held and saw a cream-colored van matching Tyffani's description: an older-model cream-colored van in good condition with no lettering or markings. It was parked at one of the houses.
The P.I. took pictures of the vehicle and wrote down the license plate number. She was able to identify the owner through the plate number and gave all this information to the police. They never heard anything back (Reyes, n.d.).
Terry's case was eventually passed to detective Darin Mallon of the Crime Against Children Unit when he was on Missing and Runaway detail. Unlike previous handlers, Mallon got to work, investigating a lead that came over Reyes' tip line (Krueger, 2002).
Do you think the girl spotted with the Cuban drug dealer was Terry?
A possible lead
In July 1999, one year after Reyes disappeared, a tip came over the line her mother had set up. An unidentified caller claimed he had seen Terry but demanded pay for his information.
The call was traced to a Richard in Room 151 of the Econo Lodge at Central and San Pedro Drive Northeast. He told detective Mallon that Terry may have been in the room of a Cuban guy he bought drugs from.
He gave Mallon the pager number of a woman named Monica, a prostitute, who had also been in the room.
Monica said she was sure the girl in the photo was the girl seen with the Cuban man. The sighting was further bolstered by the fact the girl in question went by "Terry."
Monica said the girl seemed fine and may have been working for Oscar, the Cuban drug dealer who drove a white Maxima, as a prostitute (Krueger, 2002). Monica also echoed the police that Terry said she would "come home when she was ready." Neither sighting has been confirmed (Good, 2008).
A phone number hidden in a teddy bear
Two years after Terry disappeared, Ms.Reyes found renewed hope in the form of a teddy bear. Her granddaughter spotted a tear in the stuffing of Terry's favorite teddy bear.
Hidden in the neck was a phone number scrawled in lipliner on a napkin. Could this be the number to the party?
But alas, what seemed like a beacon of light in the two-year darkness dimmed quickly. When the PI tried the number, it was disconnected.
Police could not access cell phone records to trace its origin without a subpoena, which would be too difficult to obtain.
With no more leads and nowhere else to turn, Reyes sought the help of a psychic. Four in fact; they all divined Terry was dead.
One Cynthia Hess of radio and horoscope column fame felt that she could have lived for a while after her disappearance but was possibly buried in a remote barren spot the psychic could not pinpoint. (Krueger, 2002). Could these divinings be accurate?
From runaway to endangered missing
Investigators no longer believe Terry ran away, reclassifying her case from runaway to endangered missing (Good, 2008).
"Terry Reyes probably was killed, but that's my opinion. And my opinion doesn't matter. What we need is some type of evidence, some indicator that foul play was involved, and we don't have that in this case. That she's never called isn't enough." Detective Mallon stated.
The family of Teresa Reyes fears her case was overlooked because of her problematic history and her race. "What angers me the most is how some cases get all the priority and in ours nothing happens," Diane Sedillo, Terry’s older sister said.
"Sure, she got in trouble; she had problems, but just because of who she was and our race, that should have nothing to do with it. Look at that (Elizabeth) Smart girl in Utah. What about us? What about our family?"
Stormy days in particular, are hard. "She was so afraid of thunder," Reyes said. "I think, where is she? Is she scared? Does she need me?"
Over a dozen women have gone missing from the Albuquerque area between 1998 and 2006. This is in addition to the 11 bodies (and one unborn fetus) found buried in the West Mesa desert.
All of the women were involved in drugs and prostitution and all but one were Hispanic ("West Mesa Murders - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia").
All of the victims disappeared later than Teresa from 2003 - 2005 making the connection doubtful. It's also important to note that apart from the supposed sighting, there's nothing to suggest Teresa ever engaged in prostitution. And any suggestion of drug involvement is pure speculation.
Timeline of events
evening of July 1, 1998 - Terry and her cousin are approached by men at the John Brooks Supermart
approximately 11:30 p.m. that night - Terry was last seen taking a snack into her room
3 a.m. July, 2 - Terry is discovered missing from her residence
July 1999, one year later - tip comes in from Econo Lodge motel
- Several years later - Terry reclassified from runaway to endangered missing
What happened to Teresa Reyes that night?
Did she sneak out to go to a party?
A few things raise questions as to whether she was planning to go out when she did:
Why leave her purse and other items behind?
Why make a plate of food and not touch it?
The door was closed but unlocked as if she planned to sneak to back in or just step out for a moment.
Did she step outside to talk to someone?
Did she call someone to pick her up?
Did Teresa make it to the party?
If so, what happened to her there?
Was the number hidden in the bear connected with the men at the gas station?
Is the sighting of Terry at the motel legitimate? Or did the caller simply see her poster and try to cash in? If true, while it’s possible Terry was with Oscar willingly, it’s also possible she was being held against her will. Or she could have later met with foul play. Or the caller was genuine but mistaken about who he saw.
Did she meet a guy and decide in one night to leave everything and everyone behind?
Did she fall victim to the serial killer or killers dubbed the 'West Mesa bone collector'?
Did she die the night she went missing?
Or did Terry succumb to the streets, swallowed up by the night?
Could she out there suffering from amnesia and in need of medical care?
Only one thing is certain in this complexing case: Teresa “Terry” Reyes disappeared the night of July 1, 1998, leaving nothing but a breeze behind.
Points of interest in this case
Teresa's family's residence in 1998, where she disappeared from. (The family no longer lives here but is still searching for her).
Site where the John Brooks Supermart was located where Terry and her cousin stopped to use the payphone and met the group of men.
The Phillips 66 gas station
The tip came from this location, now a Walgreens
Have you seen her?
Teresa Reyes was last seen at around 11:30 p.m. on the first of July 1998. She stands at 5’10 and weighs 135 lbs (when last seen). She is Hispanic and has brown hair and brown eyes.
She has her name tattooed in cursive, and a rose below her right knee. Her tongue, navel, and ears are pierced.
She had on a blue, yellow, and pink top with shorts and possibly white strapped sandals when last seen.
She has been diagnosed with learning disabilities as well as bipolar disorder and ADD. She needs Zoloft, Tegretol, and Ritalin three times daily and did not have her medication with her.
Without the medicine she may have violent mood swings and could be disoriented to the point of not knowing who she is. She may need medical assistance.
Her birth date is September 26, 1980. She was 17 at the time she disappeared and is currently 31 years old.
If you have any information concerning the whereabouts or fate of Teresa Reyes, please call the Albuqueque Police Department at 505-242-2677.
Sources and references
Good, M. (2008). The Charley Project: Teresa Reyes. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
Reyes, T. (n.d.). Teresa Reyes. Retrieved April 22, 2012. Terry's mother's story.
New Mexico - Unsolved. (2011). Retrieved April 22, 2012. Missing Albuquerque women.
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