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Mass grave leads police from New Mexico to Colfax Ave.

10:37 PM, Nov 18, 2009   |    comments
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This week, Albuquerque Police got a tip the information they're looking for could be found along East Colfax Avenue in Denver and Aurora.

Syllannia Edwards was 15-years-old when she disappeared from her home in Lawton, Okla. in 2003.

Her body was found with those of 11 other women and one unborn child in a makeshift graveyard on the west side of Albuquerque in February.

Forensic investigators have done the painstaking work of identifying the victims, one-by-one.

Only one remains unidentified.

Edwards' remains were identified last week. Shortly after, police learned she may have been in the Denver area in May 2004.

Investigators say she was seen at the Ranger Hotel on Colfax near Moline with three women named Lucretia, Ty and Diamond. Edwards may have used the nicknames "Mimi" and "Chocolate."

"We need to find out exactly what she was doing and who she was hanging out with," said Nadine Hamby, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque Police.

"They are not in any kind of trouble. We do not want to question them for any crimes they've committed or may have committed," Hamby said. "We just don't know what [Edwards] has in common with our other victims."

Other women found in the mass grave had histories of drug abuse and prostitution.

Edwards is unique because of her age, race and lack of ties to Albuquerque, said Hamby.

The tip about her history on Colfax suggests a similar background to the other women, Hamby said, and her differences from the other women could help investigators find a common thread that leads to a suspect.

Albuquerque Police have also provided a photo of a distinctive acrylic nail Edwards was wearing at the time of her death.

If Edwards did sell her body, at 15, she would be among many teens in this country to do so.

Carol Lease is the executive director of The Empowerment Program. It provides housing, health, employment and education services for women involved in the criminal justice system.

"It is common," Lease said, citing research done in 2002 in Chicago by the Center for Impact Research. "They talked to many women working on the street, former prostitutes, and identified that about 33 percent, a third of the women on the streets started prostitution before they were 15 years old. It's amazing."

Lease said, "Most of those young women they found in Chicago had grown up in households where prostitution occurred, mother, sister, aunt, relatives. Where there was drug use, high rates of domestic violence, high rates of mental illness or trauma. Of course all these young girls are traumatized."

According to Lease, the Chicago study represents the situation in major U.S. But Lease says a similar study has not been done in Denver.

Investigators are looking for anyone who recognizes Edwards, especially anyone who may know how she got from the Denver area to Albuquerque.

A $65,000 reward is being offered in the case. For more information, visit http://www.cabq.gov/police/index--118th/index--118th.htm.

Anyone with information is asked to call Albuquerque Police at 1-877-765-8273.

To discuss this story or to suggest another story idea, contact 9Wants to Know Investigative Reporter Kyle Clark at kyle.clark@9news.com.

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