On this date in 1999, law enforcement officials started digging near the mobile home of David Parker Ray at Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico. They were looking for bodies of young women, expecting to find 40 to 60 corpses on the property. They found none.
What prompted the search happened a few days earlier, on March 22, 1999. A woman was found running down a dirt road at Elephant Butte State Park. She was naked except for a metal collar around her neck attached by padlock to a four-foot piece of chain. The story she told police about being abducted and tortured for three days before escaping, led to the arrest of Ray and his accomplice, Cynthia Lea Hendy.
Police searched and found a systematic torture chamber in one of the bedrooms of the mobile home, and two sheds, and a cargo trailer on the property with similar items and video taping equipment. David Parker Ray had been sexually torturing and murdering women for 40 years without being caught. He even involved his daughter and another friend, Dennis Yancy. Both were later charged.
But where were the bodies? According to Cindy, gravesites were scattered from Truth or Consequences to Albuquerque. Drainage ditches on the side of the road. Abandoned mine shafts were a popular burial site for Ray, she claimed in an interview, because he said no one would ever look there. She told of going to an area with Ray at one time where he claimed three bodies were buried but they couldn’t find them. It was also speculated that bodies were at the bottom of Elephant Butte Resevoir, and they scoured the lake bottom looking for them.
I was living in Tucson at the time, and, as with most headline news, once its no longer the lead story or leaves the front-page, you lose track of what happens. When I saw the reference to this date in history, I found myself curious as to what had happened to “The Toy Box Killer”. The name given to him because of his torture equipped construction trailer, which it was rumored, he spent over $100,000 to outfit over the years.
David Parker Ray was found guilty on numerous counts in the abduction and torture of Angie Montaño who had come forward after the girl escaped in March 1999. He then admitted to crimes against two others in exchange for a lighter sentence for his daughter. One of the other two was Cynthia Vigil, the girl found running down the road on that March afternoon.
He was sentenced to 223 years in prison, but he died eight months later of a heart attack, having only served a total of 3 years since the time he was arrested. His long-time girlfriend and accomplice got 36 years for the crimes. She is currently serving her time in prison in Grants, New Mexico. Ray’s daughter, Glenda Jean “Jessy” Ray, his accomplice in the abduction and sexual torture of Kelly Van Cleave, was sentenced to just 5 years probation, thanks to her father’s cooperation. She tells everyone who will listen that her father was innocent.
If you want more information on this amazing yet horrific story, read Jim Fielder’s, “Slow Death.” How many woman he actually tortured and murdered will never be known, and most of the information that was given to investigators was second-hand from Cindy Hendy who testified against him, not the confessions of David Parker Ray. He was never charged or convicted of murder.