'Toy Box Killer': Search reopened for New Mexico woman's remains
New Mexico police have reopened the case of an Albuquerque woman missing for more than 15 years after authorities recently received new information about a man known as the "Toy Box Killer" who claimed he was responsible for murdering at least 40 people.
Police suspect that the remains of 22-year-old Jill Troia, who disappeared in 1995, may be buried near a reservoir in southern New Mexico, an FBI spokesman told The Times on Tuesday as he prepared to board a boat and begin the search about 150 miles south of Albuquerque.
He said about 20 FBI personnel had joined 10 Albuquerque police and New Mexico State Police and were about to head out to search Elephant Butte Reservoir and nearby caves where David Parker Ray may have buried the remains of Troia and other alleged victims.
Ray wrote about how he sexually tortured his victims in the trailer he dubbed his "toy box" in the New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences, within view of the reservoir, Fisher said. Ray claimed he then buried his victims, including an Asian woman who investigators believe may have been Troia.
But authorities have also said it's unclear whether Ray, who died in prison, was writing about actual crimes he committed, or sadistic fantasies.
"We will be taking service boats across the lake to McCrae Canyon, hike two miles searching for remains and hike back," said FBI spokesman Frank Fisher, adding that they planned to search the banks of the reservoir as they passed, since the reservoir water level has dropped recently. They did not bring cadaver dogs, opting to bring experts who are trained to identify human remains, Fisher said.
Ray was arrested in 1999 after a naked woman fled from his home wearing only a dog collar and chain.
In 2001, Ray pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rape charges in the case of the woman who had fled his home, and was convicted of kidnapping and torturing a Colorado woman. He died in prison in 2002. After his death, authorities searched around the reservoir, but never recovered any bodies, Fisher said.
Ray's girlfriend at the time of his arrest, Cynthia Lea Hendy, told police that Ray disposed of bodies in Elephant Butte Reservoir. Hendy was sentenced 11 years ago to 36 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to accessory and kidnapping charges, and agreed to cooperate with investigators to avoid a life sentence. She remains in prison, Fisher said.
Troia was last seen in October 1995 at Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque with Ray's daughter, Glenda Jean Ray, whom she had dated. Albuquerque police have long believed Ray and his daughter were connected to Troia's disappearance, which remains the Albuquerque Police Department's only known cold case related to Ray. But neither was ever charged in connection with the case.
In 2001, Glenda Jean Ray pleaded no contest to kidnapping charges and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, plus five years of probation in connection to her father's sex torture case. She was later released, Fisher said.
Fisher said authorities are reopening other missing-persons cases from the same time period to see if they are connected to Ray. A new DNA missing persons' database could help identify remains, he said.
"We are hoping that if we find remains that we can take them and do DNA analysis on them to match them with missing people, we expect they would be missing women, to bring closure to their families and to determine if there were and co-conspirators," he said.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Top photo: David Parker Ray looks around the courtroom in Estancia, N.M., during his 2001 trial on charges of abducting and sexually torturing a Colorado woman. Credit: Jake Schoellkopf / Associated Press.
Bottom photo: In this photo taken at FBI headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M. on Friday, FBI spokesman Frank Fisher opens a coffin authorities say suspected serial killer David Parker Ray used to torture victims. Credit: Russell Contreras/Associated Press.