January 20th, 2011
03:44 PM ET

AC360° Cold Case: Twenty-one years later, justice eludes victims of bowling alley slaying

Casey Wian
CNN Correspondent

Editor's note: Watch Casey Wian's full report on the Las Cruces bowling alley murders Thursday on Anderson Cooper 360° beginning at 10pm ET.

(CNN) - "They shot me five times," says a desperate 12-year-old Melissia Repass in a call to 911. "Just hang on, take a deep breath," says the dispatcher. "How many people are hurt?"

"1,2,3,4,5,6,7," is her chilling response from an office floor in a New Mexico bowling alley.

Repass and six others were shot execution style during a robbery at the Las Cruces Bowl on Feb. 10, 1990. Police responded and found Melissia's friend, 13-year-old Amy Houser, Air National Guardsman Steven Teran, 26, and his 6-year-old daughter Paula, shot dead. Teran's 2-year-old daughter, Valarie, succumbed 45 minutes later at the hospital.

"The people that did it shot her point blank. I mean they were looking at her when they shot her," said Audrey Teran, Valarie's mother. "I know they see her eyes. I know whoever did this can't get these eyes out of their head."

Incredibly, Melissia survived. So did her mother, 34-year-old bowling alley manager Stephanie Senac, and Ida Holguin, 33, the Las Cruces Bowl's cook.

"When they shot me in the head, it was the loudest noise I ever heard," Holguin says. "I thought my head had exploded. I was soaked with blood."

Despite gunshot wounds to their heads, the survivors were able to provide detectives a detailed description of their killers, who took between $4,000 and $5,000 in cash.

Officers set up road blocks on all highways leading out of Las Cruces. Yet the killers escaped, and have avoided justice for nearly 21 years.

Joe Bob Sellers was one of the first Las Cruces Police Dept. detectives on the scene after the shooting. He returned to the remodeled, renamed bowling alley more than 21 years later, and choked up describing what he remembers.

"For me it's been very hard, this is only my second time being in this building," Sellers said. "The heinous crime, the way that it happened...the smoke and the smell, looking down and seeing all those loved ones, that was hard. Especially the kids. Why kids? What could they do?"

"We need the right person to come forward," says Detective Mark Myers of the Las Cruces Police Department, who took over the case in 2002. " There's someone out there that knows or at least has a good idea who did this."

Detectives have followed thousands of leads. Theories about the crime include a botched hit, a drug deal gone bad, and a vendetta against the family that owned the bowling alley. But none have panned out, and Myers continues to operate on the theory that the murders were the result of a robbery by experienced criminals who wanted to leave no witnesses.

"It was easy for them to kill, but you couple that with their knowledge of what they were going to gain out of hitting this particular place, it tells you that this probably isn't their first crime."

"It's time for whoever knows or thinks they know to come forward with the information that we need to give these surviving victims and their family and the surviving family members the answers to the questions," Myers said. "They'll never have closure, I mean this devastated their lives."

Audrey Teran says "when they took my family away, it was hard to live. It was, every breath hurt. It was hard to go out. It was hard to function."

Melissia Repass, once the brave little girl who made the 911 call, now want the killers caught so she can stop living in fear.

"Then I will be able to go out in public and feel safe. I won't constantly look over my shoulder, I won't feel for my children, for their safety, and I won't fear, I won't have fear in my own home, that they're gonna come and try and finish what they tried to do 21 years ago."

The Las Cruces Police Dept. requests that anyone with information on the case call 800-222-8477, text to LCTIPS, or visit http://www.crimestoppersusa.com/.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Casey Wian • Crime & Punishment
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. jessdine

    I had to walk away from watching this. I have a four year old and a one year old and I love my husband dearly. How that mother survived this horrible tragedy I don't know but my heart aches for her.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  2. James Hash

    Just wanted to say thank you for keeping this story alive. I was the dispatcher that took the 911 call that day and all of us in law enforcement still hope the shooters will be found. It's not just the families that can not forget this case but all of us involved want this to be solved so we know why it happened so we can try to understand why this senseless crime happened.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    How can anyone be so cold as to shoot small children or anyone else execution style? There probably was no need to shoot any of them either. I hope someone comes forward with some information that leads to the capture and conviction of the lowlifes that did this.

    January 20, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  4. Ody

    goodness– that sounds like an horror film. This actually happened! the world is a crazy place. I hope whoever did this be strong enough to come out now since there's no more point to prove (you got away with it for that long)

    January 20, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  5. George

    Get the guns, Mr. President. People are dying everyday because of these outdated laws. Enough of this 2nd amendment! It's an antique!!!

    January 20, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  6. john

    Why don't you post the drawings of the criminals? It could help.

    January 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  7. Kristal

    y the baby ? (Y) answer that question aND u get your killers

    January 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  8. Kristal

    wheres the reward money ? get that out there people loveeeeeeee money

    January 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  9. Alex

    I question the timing of this story, being the recent push for gun control, CNN runs a tragic shooting story that is 21 years old on the front page.

    January 20, 2011 at 8:37 pm |