Known for her young adult suspense novels including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Killing Mr. Griffin, and Stranger With My Face, Lois Duncan essentially stopped writing the genre after her daughter Kaitlin Arquette was murdered in 1989. Now, there’s been a break in one of the most notorious cold cases in Albuquerque history.
In July, University of New Mexico police spoke with Paul Apodaca, 53, who told officers he’d committed some murders and wanted to talk to the police about them, Albuquerque police revealed during a press conference on Tuesday. Apodaca confessed to three rapes and three murders: the 1988 fatal stabbing of Althea Oakeley, a 21-year-old UNM student who was attacked while walking home in June 1988; the shooting death of Duncan’s daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette, a year later; and a second shooting death that occurred in between the other two killings. Police announced Apodaca has been charged with Oakley’s murder and that more charges are expected, pending further investigation.
Apodaca explained that his “hatred of women” drove him to stab Oakley, according to a regional ABC affiliate, which quoted a criminal complaint. “I think… what made me do it, what made me attack her was all, all the hatred I had for women, 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. So, I was jealous and, and had hatred and I just released it,” Apodaca said in the complaint. Police at the press conference suggested the shootings of Duncan’s daughter, Arquette, and the yet-unnamed victim were similarly motivated by “disklike for women,” describing the deceased as randomly chosen “victims of opportunity.”
Arquette was killed the summer after she graduated high in what seemed like an inexplicable freak attack. She was driving home after dinner at a friend’s house when two bullets entered the driver’s side of her red Ford Tempo and hit her in the head.
Duncan, who’d been writing suspense books for teens since the Sixties, pulled away from the genre. “I went weak after Kait’s murder,” she told BuzzFeed’s Tim Stelloh in 2014. “How could I even think about creating a novel with a young woman in a life-threatening situation?”
Meanwhile, the Albuquerque police failed to bring Arquette’s killer to justice. They’d charged but failed to convict two other people with the crime in a move Duncan believed had been meant to resolve the case in a hurry. Meanwhile, Apodaca, who at the time already had a history of violent crime against women and girls, had actually been at the scene of the crime that night. Officers took his contact info and let him leave. “He happened to be passing by,” was how the detective who’d found Arquette in her car would reportedly later explain the interaction in a deposition.
Critical of law enforcement’s progress, Duncan spent decades investigating the case with her family. She enlisted the help of psychics as well as a private investigator, who had long focused on Apodaca as a suspect. In 1992, Duncan released the non-fiction book Who Killed My Daughter?, and her 2013 book, One to the Wolves, also covered the crime.
Duncan died in 2016 at 82, but Arquette’s older sister Kerry Arquette is still waiting for answers as to why the police didn’t solve this case sooner when the suspect had been there the night of the crime. “This confession is just a start,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “The family has innumerable questions — the whys and the hows, and a lot of blanks to be filled in before we can sit back and think that justice has been served. It’s been too many years since we’ve been trying to fill in those blanks by ourselves.”
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