UnResolved Docuseries Episode 3: Faces in a crowd

In this 6-episode docu-series, award-winning investigative reporter, Morgan Loew, takes a new look at the murder of Adrienne Salinas.
Published: Jul. 2, 2022 at 7:00 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 11:37 AM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Tempe police want to re-interview the people who saw, spoke to or were near Adrienne Salinas the night she disappeared, nine years ago.

“Well, the thing that stands out about this case, quite honestly, is the amount of people as you can see that she was surrounded by,” said Lt. Alan Akey, as he pointed to a poster in the Tempe Police Headquarters with images of the people who investigators have already spoken to. Akey was the original case detective investigating Salinas’ disappearance and death.

“You could work a case and say, ‘This person we need to look at.’ In this case, she was surrounded by more than one, more than half dozen of those people,” said Akey.

Det. Greg Duarte sat behind a small desk across from Akey.

“A lot of times, murders, it’s usually by someone you know. Right? Boyfriend, girlfriend, wannabe boyfriend-girlfriend. Someone that knows the person, but feelings aren’t reciprocated, or whatever,” said Duarte. “Nobody’s been ruled out. Right - even Fran.”

He is referring to Francisco Arteaga. He was Adrienne Salinas’ longtime boyfriend.

“Fran’s a great guy. He’s goofy and I don’t mean that in a mean way. But he’s a goofy guy,” said Shainey Duggan, who was one of Salinas’ longtime friends and her roommate when she disappeared.

“Never in my mind, throughout the whole investigation, did I think he did it,” said Rebecca Flores, who was also a roommate and longtime Salinas friend.

“I think it was hard for him to be looked at as a possible suspect, or even a bad guy,” said Duggan.

Police have not named any official suspects, but they do have a list of people they refer to as persons of interest. These are people who may have information that could help detectives find new leads. But they have also not been completely ruled out as possibly being involved. Arteaga is one of those people.

Back in 2013, investigators interviewed Arteaga several times. This is an excerpt from one of the interviews between Arteaga and an FBI agent who was helping Tempe police with the investigation.

Francisco: “She called me. She called me like ten times. I had ten missed calls from her.”

FBI Agent: “When was that?”

Francisco: “It was from 4:10 to 4:17. She had to have known that I was asleep.”

FBI Agent: “Would you still have considered her your girlfriend?”

Francisco: “Well, I was talking to some other girls. And we talked about this, and that’s somewhat why we got into an argument that night.”

Cooper: “So, the argument was more your guys’ relationship? Tell me if I’m wrong in any of this. Your guys’ relationship, the fact that you were talking to some other girls, and it sounds like she wanted you guys to be exclusive.”

Francisco: “Mmm hmm.”

FBI Agent: “And you’re not sure that’s what you were ready for with the relationship?”

Francisco: “Exactly.”

“I’d hate to say that we ruled Fran out. Because you look at these stories and they say, ‘It’s always the boyfriend. It’s always the husband.’ And a lot of times it’s statistically someone close to the victim. It’s not necessarily a stranger,” said Akey.

Here is an excerpt from one of Akey’s interviews with Arteaga:

Akey: “One of the things we did for this investigation is we reviewed her Facebook. Now we noticed, and maybe you can help me understand this, is she, you and her like, defriended in May?”

Francisco: “We did?”

Akey: “Yeah.”

Francisco: “It’ll say, maybe, ‘Not a friend anymore?’ Really?”

Akey: “Yeah. Do you know why that would happen? It actually doesn’t have you guys being friends right now.”

Francisco: “No way. With Adrienne?”

Akey: “Yeah.”

Francisco: “No.”

“To this day, every interaction I’ve had with Fran has been, he’s been cooperative. He’s been helpful. Like he’s really shown he’s been trying to be helpful and given as much information as he could,” said Akey.

However, Akey said Francisco failed the polygraph test. There could be several reasons someone would fail a polygraph and still not be guilty of the crime at issue. It could be nerves. It could be that they were trying to conceal other illegal activity, such as drugs or underage drinking. Or, in Francisco’s case, it could be that he was not a U.S. citizen. One person who never thought Francisco was responsible for Adrienne’s death is her father, Rick.

“Adrienne and Francisco became friends in the fifth grade. My son knew his family, you know, his sister,” said Rick Salinas.

Arteaga is said to be living in Mexico. He did not respond to requests to participate in this project.

“So, Fran is somebody I want to look at, still,” said Duarte.

About 30 minutes before Salinas disappeared, she called a taxi. All indications are that she wanted to go to Arteaga’s apartment.

“She called that cab company, so naturally I’m going to reach out, find out, ‘Did you pick her up? What happened? Where were you at?’ Get all the details I can get,” said Akey.

The cab driver is a man named Thomas Simon, Jr. He was consistent in what he told police about that night. This is what he told Akey:

“I was up around Tatum area, finished up a call. And I got a call from her at like four in the morning. Yeah.. about four. Maybe a little before. So she told me the cross streets, and it was an AMPM, and I told her, ‘Ma’am, it’s going to take about 28 minutes. I’m really far away. But I want to come take care of you.’ And I said, ‘Are you going to wait, for sure? You promise you’ll wait? I’ll come get you. It’s on my way home.’ I started driving, and I’m not sure who called who first, but I called. I always call on those long calls to make sure they’re still there. She said she was going to be there, and I said, ‘Okay, I’m coming to get you.’

She called me and sounded a little; she sounded a little bit, she wasn’t as normal as she was before. She sounded a little stressed out. And she said, ‘Are you coming? Are you coming?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. I’m about eight minutes away.’ And she goes, ‘Well, I’m not there yet.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ She goes, ‘No, I’m down the street. I’m walking there.’

Finally, I get there. And I’m parked in the front. I just start waiting, of course. And I called her three times. And no answer. She was nowhere. I got out of the cab just a little bit. Walked around it. Just kind of hoping she would see me coming up the street. And I waited for probably ten minutes. And I took off to my dad’s because I pay him the lease money every night that I collect from the drivers. And then I went home and went to sleep.”

Investigators from Tempe police say they noticed one unusual fact from that night regarding Simon. After he was supposed to pick up Salinas, he powered down his cell phone for 12 hours.

“So that’s something I’ve got to talk to (him) about. Any person is going to want to know why is that guy’s phone off? said Akey. “The gaps in (his) phone record, I have to reconcile that somehow.”

In the days after Salinas disappeared, Tempe police received several tips. One of them involved Simon. It came from a woman who claimed her cousin worked at Simon’s apartment complex. And that the cousin heard something alarming coming from inside Simon’s apartment. Here is a transcript of her call to Tempe police:

“I went to visit one of my cousins. I’m not quite sure if they were working on the apartment next door on the outside of the apartment. And he heard, like, a woman scream. And he heard like someone was trying to shut up the lady and they weren’t quite sure. As soon as they lowered down their music, the neighbor, the taxi driver house, like, he highered up his music full blast. And I said, ‘Are you sure that’s what you heard? Like a woman screaming?’ And he said, ‘Yeah. A woman screaming desperately.’ That’s the word he used.”

“My last attempt at a positive interaction with him was he shut his door on us and said he wasn’t helping anymore,” said Akey.

“And I get it. You talk to an attorney and they say stop communicating. You stop communicating. But at that time, we were in information-gathering. We weren’t into a, ‘Hey, we think you committed a crime’ gathering thing,” he said.

Police searched Simon’s taxi cab and apartment. They also obtained a court order for a sample of his DNA. The following is a partial transcript of the audio recorded when Simon was brought into Tempe Police headquarters to obtain the DNA sample.

Officer: “Everything that happens from here on out depends on you. Okay? I understand that you might be upset with us.”

Simon: “You guys are liars and you’re hurting somebody for no reason. I would never hurt anybody. I would only hurt myself, if you haven’t already seen that.”

Officer: “I don’t want you to hurt yourself, either.”

Simon: “I will hurt myself, because now I’m being treated like sh%t and I don’t like it.”

Officer: “You’re not under arrest. You’re detained.”

Simon: “Why would you detain me?”

Officer: “I’ll get to that here in a second.”

Simon: “I want to get to that quickly. I’ve got a life to live, man.”

Officer: “And you’ll get on to living your life.”

When the officer leaves the room, Simon begins pacing, talking to himself, and kicking into the air. When the police team returns to take the DNA sample, Simon reacts angrily.

“That’s my DNA. You don’t deserve it. I’m very pissed off about that,” he says.

“If I’m not a suspect, then why can you take away my stuff? Something that belongs to me? Why is it in America that we’re not free that you can F’ing take my F’ing DNA? You’re a F’ing creature! I F’ing hate you. And that mother F’er that, let me go! I F’ing hate you. I hate all of you, man. You’re F’ing A-holes. Take something that belongs to me because I F’ing picked up. I tried to pick up a girl. And missed her,” said Simon.

“Did you pick her up?” asked the officer.

“No, I never did. I wish I did, though. Because then she’d be safe,” said Simon.

The search of Simon’s cab and apartment and his DNA have not connected him to Adrienne Salinas’ disappearance or death. In the years since Simon has left several messages for Tempe police detectives.

“Now I have to work for myself, because nobody will hire me because all of the misinformation that has been dealt by the news agencies, which is information given out by you. You’ve treated me like a criminal and I have never been a suspect, as per what you have said. Not being a suspect, you guys have ruined my life. Permanently,” said Simon in one of the messages.

Simon declined our request for an on-camera interview. Detective Duarte still believes Simon could shed some light on what happened to Adrienne.

“There’s always a chance that maybe he saw something, that maybe he didn’t pay much attention to. But maybe it adds value to the investigation. Maybe it is pertinent to that investigation,” said Duarte.

Investigators also want to speak to some of the people who were at the party at Salinas’ apartment the night she disappeared.

“Several of the partygoers that I want to talk to that, you know, a couple have some interesting pasts, things that they were involved in,” said Duarte.

We listened to the original interviews and focused on a couple of the partygoers. One of them had a criminal record involving his former girlfriend. We are not identifying him because he is not considered a suspect in the Salinas case.

“We looked at everybody at that party. We also considered, did something happen at the party? And whoever was left freaked out and tried to clean up, an accidental death?” said Akey. He says they were not able to link anyone to Adrienne’s death, but they still want to re-interview many of the partygoers.

There is one additional person of interest that caught the attention of Tempe Police. A man named Bryan Patrick Miller. He is an accused serial killer currently awaiting trial in the Maricopa County Jail. And we have traced Miller to Adrienne Salinas’ neighborhood the morning she disappeared.