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Sante Fe police dig up new leads -- and bones -- in 1952 cold case

Law EnforcementCrime, Law and JusticeU.S. Postal Service

Nobody really vanishes into thin air. But that's more or less what happened to Inez Garcia on Nov. 2, 1952, when she stepped out of her husband's car in Santa Fe, N.M., never to be seen again.

That, at least, is what Juan Andres Jose Garcia said. 

Inez Garcia, 26, left four young children, now in their 60s, who have spent decades wondering what happened to their mother.

They may soon have an answer.

Santa Fe police announced Friday that this month they dug up bones that may be human, buried in a free-standing garage that Garcia's husband had jealously guarded from intruders before his death in the 1990s. 

"When [Juan Andres Jose Garcia] lived in the home, no one was ever allowed to enter that garage, and he spent much of his time inside the shelter," the Santa Fe Police Department said in a statement. "There were also rumors of strange smells coming from the structure and reports of dogs who tried many times to dig their way inside."

Juan Andres Jose Garcia, who was 40 in 1952 and now deceased, had been a prime suspect in his wife's disappearance. 

Investigators got permission to dig in his garage from the current owners of the property after Inez Garcia's missing-person case was handed to a new detective two months ago.

"Anyone have a small backhoe they'd be willing to donate to us for a few hours?" the Police Department asked on its Facebook page March 24, not specifying what the cops might need it for.

But they got what they needed. According to investigators' latest account, on March 21 and March 24, detectives "used shovels, pickaxes and eventually a backhoe to sift through dirt at least four feet deep inside the shelter" after a cadaver dog picked up the scent of remains.

Clawing at the dirt with basic tools and sifting the soil into a U.S. Postal Service box and a plastic tub, investigators discovered four small bone fragments that a state lab said might be human.

The bones are at a forensic lab in Texas for further testing, which will take about two months, police said.

Police got a DNA swab from one of Garcia's two surviving daughters, whose name they kept anonymous but who they said lives in northern New Mexico, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

“We’ve kept her up-to-date on how the investigation is going,” police spokeswoman Celina Westervelt told the Journal. “We don’t want to give her a false sense of hope in any way; we just want to be open and active with that.”

Perhaps it goes without saying that police consider Juan Andres Jose Garcia a person of interest in the possible murder of his wife.

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