New Mexico Murder Case Leads to Missouri Probe; 11 Bodies Were Found in Desert

Mo. Man Investigated; 11 Bodies Found in NM Desert
Investigators stand outside a photography studio owned by Ron Erwin (AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, T. Rob Brown)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CBS/AP) Federal agents and police in two states searched the homes and business of 57-year-old Ron Erwin Tuesday, in connection with the bodies of 11 women who were found in February 2009 in the Albuquerque desert.

Erwin owns a photography business and health food store in Joplin, Mo. According to his mother, Bulah Erwin, her son previously owned a used book store and collectible shop, and frequently traveled to Albuquerque for the city's renowned hot-air balloon festival, but had not gone for the last six years.

Bulah wondered why police would investigate her son. "It doesn't make any sense why they would focus on him," she said. "That's the silliest thing I ever heard of."

According to police spokeswoman Nadine Hamby, the Missouri warrants were explicitly for searches, not arrests.

The Joplin Globe quoted Albuquerque detective Tod Babcock as saying Erwin was a person of interest in the case, but Hamby later denied that Babcock explicitly named Erwin regarding the ongoing investigation.

The bodies of the women and a fetus were discovered after a hiker came across bones in a 92-acre lot that had been cleared for development. Officials have said that nearly all the women worked as prostitutes before they vanished between 2003 and 2005.

Albuquerque police Chief Ray Schultz reported that his department was investigating men who hired prostitutes and have a violent history. According to Schultz the killer was most likely a man who acted alone.

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