Investigators trying to solve the case of a 26-year-old Santa Fe woman who disappeared six decades ago thought they had a new lead in March when they found several bone fragments in the garage of a west-side home, but Thursday they said DNA testing cast doubt on the bones’ link to Inez Garcia. All but one of the four fragments were from some type of animal.
The bones were unearthed at a property on Oñate Place, just west of St. Francis Drive, as part of a cold-case investigation into the 1952 disappearance of Garcia, a mother of four who had vanished without a trace. She was last seen at a Santa Fe bar.
The bone fragments had been sent to a lab in Texas for DNA analysis, which determined that three of them could belong to a horse or a cow, Santa Fe police said Thursday.
“The Texas lab will continue testing the last bone,” said Celina Espinoza, a spokeswoman for the Santa Fe Police Department. “We are unsure at this point even if the bone is human [and] if we will be able to extract DNA.”
If police could extract DNA from the bone, then they could compare it with a sample from one of Garcia’s children.
The garage was part of her husband’s former residence in the 500 block of Oñate Place.
At the time she disappeared, Garcia had two boys and two girls, ages 8 months to 5 years. All four are still alive, police said.
Her husband, Juan Andres Jose Garcia, who was 40 when she disappeared in the early morning hours of Nov. 6, 1952, had long been the main suspect in the case. He died in the mid-1990s.
Investigators searched the property after his death and unearthed some bones. But the state Office of the Medical Investigator determined those remains belonged to animals.
Fifteen months after Inez Garcia’s disappearance, her father offered a $400 reward for “information on the whereabouts of Inez Garcia, dead or alive.” An article in The New Mexican announcing that reward gave what appeared to be the first public accounting of the last time Inez Garcia was seen alive.
Her husband told police his wife had begun drinking early in the day Nov. 5, 1952, according to the story. With her sister in town, she eventually migrated to a downtown watering hole known as El Cid Bar. She had a few beers there and then went to another bar, the Blue Ribbon Canteen on Galisteo Street, which also was known as George King’s bar.
More people joined her, the newspaper reported. Investigators later said she was “very drunk” but remained aloof from the crowd, “refusing to dance with anyone and not saying much.” Two people tried to get her to leave the bar with them at about 11 p.m., but she refused, the story said. They later told police they had stopped by her husband’s house and had told him where she was.
At about 1 a.m. Nov. 6, a stranger walked into the bar. He walked straight up to the woman and spoke some words in English, her sister told investigators. The man left, and Inez Garcia followed him. Her sister said everything happened so quickly that by the time she made it to the door and looked out the window, she couldn’t see anyone.
That was the last time anyone saw Inez Garcia, the newspaper reported.
Police took Juan Garcia in for questioning several times. At one point, in April 1954, his lawyer complained that Juan Garcia’s civil rights were being violated, and he asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate.
Sheriff Harold Hubbell of Bernalillo County had made the latest arrest, picking up Juan Garcia at a restaurant he was running in Albuquerque. Hubbell told The New Mexican at the time that he had picked up Garcia up because the man’s neighbor in Santa Fe said Garcia had not been home between midnight and 4 a.m. the night his wife vanished. Hubbell said Garcia had told him he was home that entire night.
By then, the missing woman’s family had raised the reward to $500.
According to one account of Inez Garcia’s final day, Juan Garcia said he and his wife were at a bar near the Plaza when she suddenly got out of the car, walked away and never returned.
The department has asked anyone information about the case to call 428-3710.
Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.