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Can Collectors Find Sixth Body in Desert

March 15, 1988

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ A couple searching for aluminum cans stumbled on a set of bleached bones in the desert northeast of El Paso where five young women have been found in shallow graves since September, police said Tuesday.

Police were painstakinly removing the remains Tuesday and did not know the victim’s age or sex or how long ago the person had been buried.

The bones were found a few hundred yards southeast of where the remains of five young women were discovered last fall, said Police Chief John Scagno.

The women’s deaths could be the work of a serial killer, said police, who have resumed searching for additional bodies.

″The body has not been removed,″ Scagno said Tuesday morning. ″We’re doing it inch by inch, like we’ve done in the past. We hope to have it out by this evening.″

The couple found exposed bones Monday afternoon and told police, Scagno said. Scagno would not say whether clothing or a weapon were found.

″The only detail we’re going to tell you is ... the body had braces (on the teeth),″ Scagno said. ″The body itself is just skeletal remains.″

The bodies of Maria Rosa Casio, 24, and Karen Baker, 20, were found buried close together Sept. 4. The bodies of Desiree Wheatley, 15, and Dawn Smith, 14, were found Oct. 20, about 200 yards away. On Nov. 3, the body of Angelica Frausto, 17, was found between the first two pairs of graves. All were El Paso residents except Ms. Casio, who was from the Dallas suburb of Addison.

No one has been arrested, but a detective testified in January that David Leonard Wood of El Paso is one of several suspects. Wood’s trial on an unrelated sexual assault charge began Monday. He is accused of an assault last summer near where the bodies were found.

After two bodies were found, police used dogs and airborne infrared cameras to find the other bodies. Deputy Chief Gus Massey and Scagno said they were not surprised that their search did not turn up the sixth body.

″The dogs, of course, have difficulty, given a certain period of time a body has been out there,″ Scagno said. ″The longer the period of time, the more difficult it is to locate.″

Massey said strong winds may have uncovered the bones.

The FBI and Border Patrol are assisting in the investigation, and a U.S. Customs airplane circled the area Tuesday. Customs officials on Tuesday ordered a plane carrying an El Paso Herald-Post photographer to stop taking pictures and leave.

Scagno said residents of northeast El Paso should be ″concerned and careful as always.″

″Do we think at this moment that there is any need for any type of panic? The answer is no,″ he said.

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