FARMINGTON — New evidence has revived a 22-year-old unsolved murder investigation in Farmington.
Police received DNA from a dead woman's clothing last month. It has already been compared to DNA from men who were originally questioned in the case. And the detective working the case said she will try to compare it to DNA from a man who barely appeared in the initial investigation but was identified as a "person of interest" last year.
Patsy Taylor, 52, was killed July 10, 1991, near the intersection of Camino Rio and Camina Contenta in the Caminos neighborhood south of Bloomfield Highway.
At 5:10 a.m. that day, she left her room at Executive Inn Hotel, which is now Redrock Lodge, 2530 Bloomfield Highway, and went for a walk in a nearby neighborhood.
She walked Camino Real to Camino Rio and followed the road past houses for about half mile until the road came to an end at a three-way intersection.
Police say a neighbor later reported hearing a woman scream twice at 5:20 a.m., followed by the screeching of car tires.
Taylor was found lying on her back in the roadway. Her shorts were unbuttoned and her shirt and bra were ruffled. DNA evidence was found on her shorts.
Police originally thought it was a hit-and-run crash and firefighters cleaned the scene, according to a police report.
Several hours later, police learned Taylor died when she was struck in the head and the back eight times by a metal object, possibly the butt-end of a handgun, said Farmington police Detective Heather Chavez, who is working the cold case.
Police questioned several men about their possible involvement in Taylor's death, but no one was ever charged.
Several of the initial suspects have been excluded based on the DNA evidence uncovered at the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Santa Fe.
The DNA evidence won't conclusively prove who killed Taylor, Chavez said. But it does raise hopes that questions plaguing a family for more than two decades may be answered.
"Now we have strong evidence there was a man who was obviously with her at the time of her death or close to it," Chavez said. "It's important we talk to him."
A successful woman
Patsy Taylor had the first of her three daughters when she was 18. She raised her family in Perrington, Texas, while working for an oil and gas company. She worked her way up the ranks and retired as the company's vice president, said Gina Saied, Patsy Taylor's daughter.
"She was a self-made woman. She never went to college, but she was extremely bright," said Saied, who is 52 and lives in Amarillo, Texas. Sherry Hensley, 53, from Midland, Texas, and Kristy Blades, 56, from Uvalde, Texas, are Taylor's other children.
Taylor and her first husband were divorced after a 22-year marriage, and she started a relationship with Lynn Taylor. They ultimately moved to Farmington.
Taylor retired from her job after she remarried.
Lynn Taylor was a chemical engineer for natural gas businesses and traveled around the country. Patsy Taylor was an "explorer," Saied said, and enjoyed the prospect of moving from place to place.
They moved to Farmington in 1990, and Patsy Taylor took a temporary job as a land analyst for what is now Merrion Oil and Gas.
Both the Taylors were financially successful, but they lived frugally in a mobile home and then a Farmington hotel room.
She was an active and energetic woman, Saied said. She was a competitive Olympic-style walker, training for and entering numerous competitions. She volunteered at soup kitchens.
She was a pianist. And she loved to get on the floor and wrestle with her young grandchildren.
"She wouldn't hesitate to drive across the country to see her grand kids," Saied said. "No distance was too far."
News of Taylor's death was a bombshell for Saied and her two older sisters. What helped the sisters get through the tragedy, she said, was that they were all mothers to children between 1 and 6 years old.
"When you're a mom you have to focus on your kids. It requires you to do something so you can't just lie in grief and rot," she said.
Saied said the fact that the homicide remains unsolved is an additional burden on her and her sisters. She's hopeful the new tips and evidence collected in the case may motivate someone who knows something to come forward.
"This is everybody's problem. Even if he's not in Farmington, he could be in the next town, or the next state," she said. "This could have happened to anybody's mother."
In 1991, there were at least two reported rapes in Farmington over the Fourth of July holiday. On July 3, a woman was jogging near San Juan College in the evening when she was assaulted and raped. The next night, a man was jogging in the same area at the same time when he was attacked and raped by a man matching the same description. A jogger in Durango was also raped around that time.
Police announced after Taylor's death that the crimes might be related. One theory circulating in the community was that she was killed during a botched rape attempt. The Farmington Police Department held public meetings to talk about safety issues. They told people to walk and jog in groups of two and three and educated residents about mace.
Men were identified as suspects in the rape cases, but none of them were ever charged. And there was never any link found between the rape suspects and Patsy Taylor.
Chavez said the rapes and the murder may not be related.
"This was a residential neighborhood. There's only two ways in or out," Chavez said of Taylor's death. "The other (rapes) happened in isolated areas off the beaten path."
A task force of local investigators was created shortly after the death and police went door-to-door in the well-maintained neighborhood south of Bloomfield Highway where Taylor was found looking for clues.
Saied said she took to calling Farmington police investigators daily to see if there was progress on the case. She said the family grew frustrated with the investigation.
"I pushed and I pushed and I pushed because she would have done that for me," Saied said. "It just got to the point where they said, 'There's nothing more we could do.' It had become a cold case."
Saied continued to push the detective assigned to the cold case on a regular basis to try to stir up leads. In 2011, she called Chavez to try to get her to present the case to the Vidocq Society, a crime-solving organization in Philadelphia that looks at unsolved cases. The society examined the case and some members suggested Chavez reinterview Lynn Taylor.
Police questioned Lynn Taylor after his wife's death. He passed a lie-detector test, and detectives found evidence that he didn't receive any financial benefit from the death.
New person of interest
Chavez traveled to Canton, Ohio, in February 2012 for a follow-up interview.
She said Lynn Taylor was cooperative and told her the same story he had told police at the time of Patsy Taylor's death. At times, he was emotional and cried when he talked about his wife and the fact that her death remains unsolved.
He also told police about another man who is now a "person of interest."
The man, whose identity police are not making public, worked with Lynn Taylor and frequently would stop by the Taylor's home to give them a paper or talk to Patsy Taylor, according to a police report.
Lynn Taylor said the man would usually show up at their home when he was at work and only his wife was home. Lynn Taylor told police he thought the man wanted a relationship with his wife. He said his wife was nervous around the man, according to the report.
The man moved from the Farmington area shortly after Patsy Taylor's death. Lynn Taylor told the original investigators about the man at the time of the incident, but he was never considered a suspect, according to the report.
Chavez said she called the man but he was "very uncooperative."
Chavez has five large volumes of police reports related to Patsy Taylor's death. The new "person of interest" only appears in the documents briefly. It said investigators spoke with him and he didn't appear nervous and wasn't a suspect.
"There was no explanation as to why he was not a suspect," Chavez said. "They didn't follow up on it because they had other leads, which have led us nowhere."
Chavez said she still needs more information about the case. Police are once again asking the public to try to remember anything that could be related to the homicide.
Anyone with information is asked to call Chavez at 505-327-7701 or San Juan County Crime Stoppers at 505-334-8477 (TIPS).
"He's a person of interest, but we've got zero leads," she said. "I'm open to follow-up on anything."