When horrible things happen, we often ask that they not be in vain. And that was just the case when Michael Carmen was shot to death by two thugs in an armed robbery in July of 1976. As a result of that murder, detectives with Albuquerque Police Department teamed up with KOAT TV-7 to request anonymous information about the murder and offer a cash reward. In our current world of “Reality TV,” “COPS,” and “America’s Most Wanted,” it is hard to understand just what a revolutionary idea it was for the police and media to ask for the public’s assistance in solving crimes.
Michael Carmen was a young University of New Mexico student who was working at a small gas station in Albuquerque’s Northeast Height in July, 1976. He was only two weeks away from marrying his high school sweetheart. On the night he was killed, he was working an extra shift because one of his friends needed the night off.
On that fateful Friday night, two men robbed Michael’s gas station and then—for no apparent reason—fired a shotgun blast from less than 10 feet into his abdomen. Remarkably, Michael lived for more than four hours after the shooting. Several times he tried to tell detectives who it was that shot him, but he didn’t have the strength. He died on the operating table without being able to make a dying declaration.
Detective Greg MacAleese was one of the detectives working that case. The murder seemed so senseless at the time. It still remains senseless today. But Detective MacAleese told Michael’s mother that he would bring his killers to justice. And yet, after six weeks of trying to piece evidence together to solve the murder, they were no closer to a solution than they were the night he was killed.
Det. Greg MacAleese had the wild idea of asking the TV station to reenact the crime and broadcast it. Det. MacAleese approached Max Sklower, then general manager of KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, and asked him if we could reenact the crime for one of his newscasts.
The reasoning for reenacting the crime was simple. We had an eyewitness to Michael’s murder somewhere in the community. The only logical approach was to get the media to do find that witness for us. If they reenacted the crime, we might be able to trigger the memory of a potential eyewitness, someone who might have seen part of the crime committed but not understood what he or she was witnessing.
IT WORKED!!! On September 8, 1976, at 10 p.m., the first crime reenactment was broadcast on the news. The next morning we received a call from a young man who told us that he had watched and remembered some very important information. The case was solved. In addition, police received information that solved a handful of other local crimes. Local business people and citizens quickly volunteered their time, talent, and money to give birth to Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers.
As a result of this success, Crime Stopper Programs are now world wide. The local programs are responsible for solving serious crimes by offering rewards anonymously. The state program offers an opportunity for local programs to work together on a broader scale to enhance their capabilities, and provide on-going support and education.
There are now more than 1,100 Crime Stoppers programs throughout the world, in 16 countries. And it all started HERE in Albuquerque. And, in addition to the original program, Campus Crime Stoppers is now in dozens of local schools, providing a safe environment for our K-12 students to learn and grow.
Many thanks to the thousands of concerned citizens that have donated their time, talent, and money over the years to make our communities—and our world—a safer place to live, work & play! Click here to learn about the important captures and arrests made by Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers.