When a Nevada University professor, who had previously been the subject of a violent attack, was found dead in the desert, investigators uncovered a shocking truth.
Dr. Judith Calder, 64, was a mainstay at the University of Nevada Reno as a professor of humanities. The Incline Village woman has dedicated herself to researching the darker sides of Reno, including substance abuse and domestic violence, in hopes of improving the world around her.
“He was the kind of person [that] when she walked into a room, people turned their heads and stared,” her colleague and friend, Karen Kopera-Frye, said on “Buried in the Backyard,” which airs Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “She had the most colorful clothes. His personality and his approach to life were simply dynamic.
Judy and her husband, Jim Calder, were parents to three grown daughters and loved living in the quaint community near the northern shores of Lake Tahoe, a 60-mile drive from the university where she worked. Occasionally, if she worked late, she rented a room at a local hotel, which was the case on Friday, August 17, 2007. That weekend, a friend offered her a free stay at the Golden Nugget Casino in Reno.
Jim Calder planned to meet his wife there, but had his hands full with a broken water heater at their home, putting off his plans until the next day. But when he tried to call Judy on Saturday morning, there was no answer. Jim became concerned when he arrived at the Golden Nugget: all of his wife’s belongings, including her diabetes medication, were in the room and Judy was nowhere to be found.
Jim contacted the local police.
“Jim said Judy was a very responsible person. It was absolutely irrelevant to her,” said Detective Danny James of the Sparks Police Department. “University professors don’t just disappear and cut off all contact with their families.”
Time-stamped surveillance footage put Judy at the casino around 10.30am on Saturday August 18, 2007. She was last seen getting into her vehicle and driving off on her own.
It wasn’t long before authorities found Judy’s car at 5th and Evans, an unsavory part of Reno that seemed like a strange place to the professor, investigators believed. Upon further inspection, police discovered that someone had tried to use a damp cloth to remove their fingerprints from the car’s door handles.
“That genre kind of changed the game,” James said. “This is a deliberate act to conceal evidence.”
Witnesses also told police they saw a “dark-skinned man” driving Judy’s car.
Police attempted to glean more information from Judy’s daughter Kim, who told officers her mother had been violently assaulted about a year before she disappeared. In this case, a stranger approached Judy in her own garage and covered her mouth.
Judy was able to fend off her attacker, who claimed, “Someone at college wants you dead.”
Judy has never been able to guess who would want to hurt her, neither her colleagues nor her friends. When questioned by detectives who knew about Judy’s plans to spend the weekend in Reno, Jim Calder suggested Rickey Barge, a family associate and the one who got Judy a room at the Golden Nugget.
Rickey Barge owned a printing company called “Imaging Technologies” and had met Judy through her work at college. Barge became friends with Jim, and the pair later became business partners. When Judy went missing from Reno, Barge drove Jim around town and helped him with his search.
Investigators thought Barge seemed genuinely upset by Judy’s disappearance and asked if there was anyone else who might have information. Barge said one of his casual warehouse workers, Carlos Filomeno, may have had contact with Judy while in college.
“His physical description could very well have matched the person seen driving Judy’s car,” James said of Carlos Filomeno.
But Filomeno. was not found.
10 days after Judy disappeared, antelope hunters went to investigate the birds circling overhead in the desert. There they found Judy Calder’s body buried in the sands of Jackpot, Nevada, about 500 miles from the Golden Nugget Casino.
A post-mortem examination showed that Judy had been stabbed to death. Investigators have determined that she died on the day of her disappearance.
Few clues were left at the crime scene, including a phone number belonging to one of Judy’s colleagues and tire tracks, which investigators threw away and turned into evidence. Meanwhile, Jim’s alibi was backed by a water heater repair company and the search for Carlos Filomeno continued.
Investigators examined the “Imaging Technologies” delivery van, which was driven by Filomeno, in hopes of matching tire prints from the Jackpot desert crime scene. Although they did not return, detectives noticed the smell of cleaning products emanating from the vehicle. Upon closer inspection, they found traces of human blood.
The key was to find Filomeno.
“The police were just trying to pick up the pieces,” KOLO-TV reporter Auburn Harrison said. “How did this man get involved with Judy Calder, and what was the relationship? And why was he driving his car?
It was thanks to Detective Scott Tracy of the Sparks Police Department that investigators located Carlos Filomeno.
“I had a family member who knew Carlos from when they were both involved in illegal activities,” Tracy said. “I had called him, and he was like, ‘Carlos’ mom is at one of our local casinos almost every day.'”
Sure enough, they found Filomeno at Harrah’s Casino.
During a taped interview, obtained by “Buried in the Backyard,” Filomeno gave some details about how he knew Jim Calder, but as the interview went on he talked about seeing Judy at ” Imaging Technology”. Filomeno then made a shocking confession: he saw Rickey Barge stab Judy to death.
According to Filomeno, Barge owed Judy a substantial amount of money and Barge could not repay her. He said Barge told him about the plan and made him buy the murder weapon from Wal-Mart, which was later confirmed by surveillance footage. Filomene. accused Barge of luring Judy to the warehouse with the promise to repay the loan, and when Judy arrived he killed her in cold blood. The couple then placed her in a plastic-lined box in the back of the delivery van before driving her body to Jackpot, Nevada.
They later destroyed the evidence, going so far as to change the tires on the van.
The police attempted to visit Rickey Barge, but Barge left town.
Investigators discovered that Barge had rented a car, which they found near the airport in San Antonio, Texas. Inside the rental was a note written by Barge, stating that he was leaving for Canada. Police suspected he was actually heading for the nearest Mexican border.
While an international manhunt for Barge was underway, crime scene investigators at the Imaging Technologies warehouse found evidence of large amounts of blood at the location where Filomeno said Rickey Barge had killed Judy. It was clear that someone had tried to clean up the blood with a mop.
It was also possible that Filomeno was more involved in Judy’s murder than he told authorities. But another name kept coming up in the investigation: Mohamed Kamaludeen, to whom Judy loaned $150,000, records show.
A search in the Department of Motor Vehicles revealed that Mohamed Kamaludeen was actually their prime suspect using the alias Rickey Barge.
“The real Rickey Barge turned out to be homeless in the state of Texas,” Detective Tracy said. “And Mohamed Kamaludeen had stolen his identity and had been using it for several years.”
The murder suspect using the name Rickey Barge was also a gambler, having racked up tens of thousands in gambling debts in the city. He used the loan from the Calders, which was supposed to be for the business, to feed his addiction. But what’s even more shocking is that Kamaludeen was wanted for a violent murder in 1993 in Canada, authorities have found.
They finally had enough to issue an arrest warrant for Mohamed Kamaluden, aka Rickey Barge.
On September 4, 2007, they captured Kamaludeen in Mexico, just before he could go ahead with his plan to travel to Brazil. He was extradited to America and charged with the murder of Judy Calder.
Kamaludeen initially denied killing Judy until he made a startling admission in a 2008 police interview: Jim Calder, Judy’s husband, paid Kamaludeen $50,000 to murder Judy. Kamaluden claimed that Jim wanted Judy excluded because the married couple could not agree on which of their three children should be in their will.
Kamaluden also said he helped Jim plan the violent attack on Judy’s garage a year prior.
Detectives feared Kamaluden was telling the truth when they received the Imaging Technologies warehouse surveillance footage on the day of Judy’s murder. Despite a two-hour gap when the cameras were turned off at the time of the murder, footage revealed Jim Calder showing up at the warehouse and looking into the van where the men had stuffed Judy’s body into a plastic-lined box .
During questioning, a devastated Jim Calder denied hiring anyone to kill his wife and further denied seeing his wife’s body in the back of the delivery van.
Kamaluden later changed their story and said they hid the box containing Judy’s body with other boxes filled with printing material. It turned out that when Jim looked out the back of the van, he had no idea his wife’s body was so close. Police have determined that Jim Calder had nothing to do with his wife’s murder.
Authorities made a deal with Filomeno and did not charge him with murder in exchange for testifying against Kamaluden.
“It was a money issue and a game issue,” Auburn Harrison said. “And a man who kind of felt like he didn’t owe anyone anything.”
In 2008, a jury found Mohamed Kamaludeen, alias Rickey Barge, guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
“She was the kind of person who would help anyone,” Judy’s friend Karen Kopera-Frye said. “We have lost a very dynamic, full of life and loving person who was so generous and caring. We miss her.
Mohamed Kamaluden is serving his life sentence in a maximum security state prison in Ely, Nevada.
For more on this case and others like it, watch “Buried in the Backyard,” airing Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.