Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Las Cruces bowling alley massacre. The murders are still unsolved. Here is a link to a story by Diana M. Alba of the Las Cruces Sun-News about a documentary made on the event.
February 11, 1990
Seven people – four of them children – were herded into a bowling alley’s office Saturday, shot one after another and left to burn by gunmen who set the bloody room afire, police said. Four died, including a 3-year-old girl.
“What we have here is nothing but a massacre. You’re talking about the assassination of kids,” city police Capt. Fred Rubio said.
He said robbery may have been the motive behind the brutal executions and “for some reason or other, they decided to rid themselves of any witnesses.”
“The persons who committed this vicious crime … are the only ones who know why,” Rubio said. “God willing, we can apprehend whoever did it and ask them why.”
All but two of the victims were shot in the head with a handgun, Rubio said.
The carnage at Las Cruces Bowl was discovered by firefighters at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Shotgun-wielding police and U.S. Border Patrol officers – searching for two suspects – quickly set up roadblocks on all roads leading out of Las Cruces.
The roadblocks came down at about 2:30 p.m., but no arrests had been made.
The dead, all of Las Cruces, were identified as Amy Houser, 13; Steve Teran, in his 30s, and his two daughters, Paula, 7, and Victoria, 3.
Rubio to whom all questions were directed, refused to identify the three survivors. All were taken to Memorial General Hospital in Las Cruces, which would release no information.
Rubio said some of the survivors were in intensive care late Saturday and “they’re horrified.”
Dona Ana County District Attorney Doug Driggers said one of the victims crawled to a telephone and called police.
“It was very vicious,” Driggers said.
Among the survivors, Rubio said, are a 34-year-old woman and her 12-year-old daughter, who are related to Las Cruces Bowl owner Ron Senac.
Another survivor, age 30, was working at the bowling alley.
Police artists combined witnesses’ descriptions into drawings of the two suspects, both Hispanic men. The first is about 5-foot-6, heavyset, in his late 40s or early 50s. The second is 5-foot-11 to feet, about 30 years old with short, kinky hair.
Police believe they fled the blowing alley in a green four-wheel-drive vehicle, possibly a van.
And, Rubio said, “It appears there is cash missing.”
The cold-blooded killing sent a chill through this city of about 55,000.
“I hope this was done by outsiders,” said Ofelia Carrillo, manager of the El Sombrero Restaurant next door to the bowling alley. “People from here don’t do this to each other. If people from Las Cruces did it, we’re in trouble.”
Firefighters received a fire call at 8:33 a.m. for Las Cruces Bowl, 1201 E. Armador, a popular central Las Cruces spot with bowling, billiards and a lounge featuring a big-screen television.
Firefighters found the brown cinderblock building filled with smoke billowing from an office.
Inside the smoldering office, they found the dead, dying and wounded.
“Apparantly, they were rounded up and taken to that office,” Rubio said. “Once (firefighters) drug them out, it appeared they had been shot.”
Four of the victims, including Victoria Teran, still were alive. All were sped to the hospital. The little girl was dead on arrival.
Police roped off the bowling alley area and waited for a team from the state Department of Public Safety crime lab in Santa Fe to fly to Las Cruces.
“A lot of the crime scene was contaminated” by firefighters and emergency medical personal fighting the fire and evacuating the victims, Rubio said.
“We want to get as many experts as possible and then go in and make a clean sweep.”
Albert Garcia, 22, of Las Cruces aid he was across the street at the time of the shootings.
“I heard about six or seven shots,” he said. “It sounded like caps.”
He paid no attention until police and fire trucks poured into the bowling alley’s parking lot.
Rubio said Police Chief Ron Axtell phoned Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of the Roman Catholic diocese of Las Cruces shortly after the bodes were found and asked for his help in comforting the grieving families.
Deputy New Mexico Medical Investigator Howard Cother said, “I’m sending the four victims up (to Albuquerque) for autopsy and that’s about all I can say.”
The bowling alley massacre comes less than a month after Salvador Lozano, his hands bound, died of a single bullet fired into the back of his head. Police said $500 was stolen from the Las Cruces service station where he worked.
Lozano’s widow gave birth to a girl two days after he died. His killer has not been found.
We still haven’t solved that mystery,” Rubio said. But, he added, “We don’t seriously think that (a connection between that and Saturday’s killings) is a possibility.”