This content contains affiliate links. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through these links.
Lois Duncan, best known for her teenage thrillers of the 70s and early 80s including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Killing Mr. Griffin and Stranger With My Face, stopped writing books of this type after her daughter Kaitlyn Arquette was brutally murdered in 1989 She couldn’t write, just focused on what might have happened to Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn was 18 years old when she was shot dead in 1989 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many initially believed the person responsible was Kaitlyn’s friend, but a series of investigations cleared him of the crime. Desperate for graduation and with her own knowledge of crime from her career, Duncan was deeply invested in solving the case. She enlisted the help of detective media as she became more and more suspicious of the messy work of the police.
Duncan wrote two books on crime, including Who Killed My Daughter? 1992 and One To The Wolves 2013.
Unsolved Mysteries, the popular true crime television show from the 1990s, portrayed the story and botched investigation on Jan. 27, 1993. Additionally, this 2014 investigative article on Buzzfeed examined updated details of the murder and investigation.
This week, over thirty years after the murder, one of the prime suspects, identified by a private detective hired by Duncan, was arrested and confessed to the crime.
Today in Books Newsletter
Sign up to Today In Books for daily news and all about the world of books.
Thanks for signing up! Keep an eye on your inbox.
Paul Apodaca, 53, confessed to Kaitlyn Arquette’s murder as well as a number of other crimes across Albuquerque at the time. All of the incidents involved young women, and Apodaca was quoted as saying that they were driven by “all the hatred I had for women.”
Apodaca has not yet been charged with the crime, although he was charged with another high profile murder that happened weeks before Arquette’s murder. These charges led to his confession, although police have not yet discussed whether or not he sees charges related to Arquette’s death.
Although the police were one of the first people on the scene in the moments after the crime, they never questioned Apodaca. His information was recorded, but no reports were made. This was one of the many mistakes Duncan believed investigators made, leading them to seek private help.
“It’s hard to share a lot of information, even with family, until the case is charged, even if he’s 32-33 years old,” said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the APD’s Criminal Investigation Department, according to Albuquerque KRQE News. “Since we’re moving and want to interview people again, we’re trying not to reach someone else first, but (the family is) definitely aware of that, they know about the updates, they know this case [the murder of Althea Oakley] will be charged first. ”
Duncan died in the summer of 2016, the case remains unsolved. She and her family continued to search for all kinds of clues. While not alive to see a possible solution, it was Duncan’s relentless determination that pointed to Apadaco from the start.
Kaitlyn’s older sister, Kerry Arquette, said she and her family were grateful for a confession on the case. However, they remain frustrated and have no answers to other questions, like the police botched the case back then.
“That’s one of the heartbreaking things – this man was on the scene with the police,” she said in a telephone interview with the Albuquerque Journal. “How obvious did it have to be to investigate this guy? You just let him go. “
“This admission is just the beginning,” she told the Journal. “The family has a myriad of questions – the why and the how, and many gaps that need to be filled before we can sit back and think that justice has been done. It has been too many years since we tried to fill in these gaps ourselves. “
While Duncan never really enjoyed the greatest achievements of her writing career – adaptations of her beloved young adult thrillers and possibly dozens of other popular thrillers, as well as honors like being named Margaret A. Edwards Prize winner for her ongoing contributions to youth literature and the Grand Master Award of Mystery Writers of America – their commitment to solving their daughter’s death certainly led to that moment. Your work in conjunction with new criminal investigation tools will only help others find answers to tragic losses. In many ways, this cold case echoes through others in recent memory, including Michelle McNamara’s work on exposing the Golden State Killer as pieced together in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.
Apadaco remains on remand, and prosecutors are demanding that he be held pending trial for Oakley’s murder.