A secret in the desert


APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) – On August 6, 2013, a man walking through a desert washhouse in Apache Junction spotted what appeared to be human remains. It was a sad and solemn answer to a question Tempe police had been asking for two months. In other words, was Adrienne Salinas still alive?

Salinas had disappeared in the early morning of June 15. Her friends, family and police had been looking for her ever since, hoping she would come back alive. “My supervisor phoned me. He learned from Apache Junction that an unidentified female body had been found,” said Lt. Alan Akey of the Tempe Police Department. He was the original detective assigned to the Salinas case.

Akey says a bracelet was found with the remains, making him think it was Adrienne. But it wasn’t until the DNA came back from the lab that he knew for sure. His response was straightforward when asked what was going through his mind at the time. “That we were going to have to let the parents know she’s not alive,” Akey said. “I just remember the phone call,” said Rick Salinas, Adrienne’s father.

“I think I put my feelings aside and had to challenge myself to tell everyone. I felt like I was going to pass out or something, you know I was at my parents’ house. I was outside and I had to come in and tell them she was gone and she heard my parents’ screams,” Salinas said. Eight years passed without an arrest. In 2021, Tempe police assigned a new detective to the case.

“There was just something that made me want this case,” Det. Greg Duarte. He says he was friends with Akey when Adrienne disappeared, so he already knew about the case. “Here we have a 20-year-old girl who goes to college and has friends, then disappears and ends up dead and buried in a shallow grave in a washout in Apache Junction. I mean, she’s a real victim,” Duarte said.

In September 2021, we accompanied Duarte and Akey to where Adrienne’s remains were discovered. It was the first time Duarte had seen the scene in person. “That’s the general area where the recovery happened,” Akey said, pointing to a bank in Weeke’s Wash. “We dug a lot into the bank,” he said.

There are a lot of things investigators still don’t know between the time Adrienne disappeared and the day her body was found. They don’t know when his body was dumped in the area. “The state she was probably buried in a bit. So that reduces the time, but it’s still an unknown time frame,” Duarte said. They don’t know how she died. “The condition of his remains when discovered certainly didn’t provide much forensic evidence to point to anyone,” Duarte said.

The autopsy report contains the following statements:

  • The condition of the remains found was consistent with the body being in the desert for the same length of time that Adrienne was missing.
  • There were no obvious signs of trauma or serious injury seen on what was left of the skeleton.
  • The skull and the two upper vertebrae were missing.
  • There were no tool marks and no evidence of intentional decapitation.

“It is believed that she was buried in a shallow grave upstream,” Duarte said. “The challenge with her recovery was that the wash she was in experienced a tremendous amount of water and flooding. We believe it took his body from wherever he was to wherever he ended up,” Akey said. The fact that detectives were never able to find the location where Adrienne was buried created significant challenges.

“As a homicide detective, you want to process a crime scene. In that case… we didn’t have a crime scene in Tempe. And then at Apache Junction, the recovery area, we didn’t have the real location where the body was before where it was recovered from that washout,” Akey said. “She was moved by the water. But it’s hard to say how moved she was,” Duarte said. “We are still looking for his cell phone. So it’s still pending. So if we found the location of the dump, we might find a phone or some other object that belonged to him that would shed some light on what happened,” Akey said.

Duarte began to think aloud as the two investigators emerged from the wash.

“How would she have gotten from Tempe to Apache Junction?” Or why Apache Junction? That’s the biggest question I think I have right now. How did this come into play? Why Apache Junction? he said. Adrienne disappeared in Tempe on June 15. His body was discovered at Weeke’s Wash in Apache Junction on August 6. A major monsoon storm hit the area on July 21. As part of our investigation, we contacted Maricopa County Flood Control to see if there was a way to clarify where Adrienne was originally buried or dumped, based on the amount of water in Weeke during the July storm.

“We have several stream gauges that sit in the watershed for weeks,” said Daniel Henz, a meteorologist with the flood control agency. “We ended up having a runoff event that lasted about five hours. So at our flow gauge, we ended up seeing about 4 feet of water depth and a runoff of just over 600 cubic feet per second,” Henz said. He added that the July 21 storm was the only weather event that sent water into the wash that summer.

Here is the verbatim of the rest of the interview:

“The reason we are doing this interview is because there was a missing girl’s body that was found in a specific location. Is there any way to find out how far a body may have been buried? Seeing how much water was coming down?” asked this reporter. “I can’t answer that question. But what I can answer is this: Water is powerful. Water is heavy. One cubic foot of water weighs about 62.4 pounds. We’re talking over 600 cubic feet per second. So about 40,000 pounds of pressure is being pushed every second where our flow gauge was,” Henz said.

He said that was enough water to uproot trees, move cars and dig up a buried body. But he couldn’t speculate how far from the washhouse Adrienne was buried. Detectives focused on Adrienne’s movements and contacts the night she disappeared. “What we do know is that she’s at a party with her friends,” Akey said. “It was my friend’s birthday. And considering we were one of the few people at the time who had their own house, I offered to throw the party,” said Rebecca Flores, one of Adrienne’s two roommates and a friend of Adrienne’s. long time.

“It was probably the biggest party we’ve ever had in our apartment. Because it was a friend of Rebecca’s party, I didn’t know a lot of people there,” said Shainey Duggan, who was also a longtime roommate and friend.”We all had our own group of friends. So whenever we had parties, we invited everyone we could muster. And this party didn’t start out much differently” , Flores said.

Flores and Duggan say Adrienne didn’t seem thrilled about the party.

“She said she didn’t really feel social that night and she really didn’t want to party. But it was starting and she was going to make the most of it,” Duggan said. ‘she wanted Fran there because she called him and left a voicemail that she wanted him there,” Akey said, referring to Francisco Arteaga, who was the boyfriend of Adrienne.”They had known each other since elementary school, and that romance continued through high school and beyond,” Flores said. “They were kind of a weird couple. You have this goofy Francisco. C “He’s just, overall, a very clumsy guy. And then you have this beauty. Adrienne was a very beautiful woman, a beautiful girl,” she said.

Several friends have said that Adrienne and Arteaga’s relationship has been strained recently. This description is consistent with what is stated in the original police report. “I only heard bits and pieces. And what I had learned was that she wanted labels. She wanted a committed relationship. He kind of thought it was a good idea, you know, to see what was going on, to find out about himself, to hang out with other people, ”said Alex Hill, one of the close friends of Adrienne, but who wasn’t at the party that night.

“We knew they had a disagreement at the party, where they decided to go to his house and talk about it,” Akey said. “Sometime in the night, Fran calls me and says, ‘Hey, we had a fight. She got out of the car at a red light. Can you make sure she gets home safely? ?” said Flores.

“She goes home and starts talking to Rebecca, her roommate. Start charging his phone, we’re told. And then finally leaves in his car. People saw her leave. We know from witnesses that she collided with her car. And then the car is later found around the corner with tire damage. So we’re pretty confident that she turned it off,” Akey said. “We know she went home because of the clothes. I have a picture they took at the party. The clothes she’s wearing are the clothes that were in her room,” he said. said.

“Looking back, she was obviously very determined to go to Francisco,” Flores said. “And then, from the phone information, we know that she contacted a taxi company to return, what we believe to be, to Fran’s house. And why we think it’s because she texted, ‘On the way,'” Akey said. Friends said they didn’t remember Adrienne taking a cab at any other time. And that night, they didn’t believe she had money to pay for a taxi. Detectives believe Adrienne began walking to a convenience store and gas station, about three blocks from her apartment. Surveillance video at the store shows the cab pulling up, but there’s no sign of Adrienne.

“Tempe is a bustling city. Sometimes all night. That night when Adrienne arrived it was busy,” Duarte said.

“And so, because there were people there that night, it’s kind of frustrating not having any information, which makes me say, ‘So okay, maybe “There was nothing that caught anyone’s eye about what happened to her. Maybe she just got in someone’s car. You know. And that makes me thinking, ‘Maybe it was someone she knew. Someone from the party, Fran, the taxi driver, that she called,’ Duarte said.


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