Decades Later, The Murder Of Kaitlyn Arquette May Have Finally Been Solved

Kaitlyn Arquette was driving home on a summer evening in 1989 when a car pulled up beside her and fired two bullets into her car. Arquette's murder made headlines due to the seemingly random nature of the shooting, and also because her mother was the famed young adult suspense writer Lois Duncan. Duncan would end up playing a pivotal role in the case when she began publicly criticizing the police investigation in a book she wrote about the murder and in an appearance on Unsolved Mysteries. Despite Duncan's best efforts, her daughter's murder remained unsolved.

The Kaitlyn Arquette case took a stunning turn in the summer of 2021, when Paul Apodaca, a man who was at the crime scene but never questioned, confessed to murdering Arquette. While no formal charges have yet been pressed against Apodaca, the Arquette family may finally have an answer as to who killed Kaitlyn.


  •  In 1989, 18-Year-Old Kaitlyn Arquette Was Shot And Killed In Albuquerque, NM
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    In 1989, 18-Year-Old Kaitlyn Arquette Was Shot And Killed In Albuquerque, NM

    On the evening of July 16, 1989, Kaitlyn Arquette was driving home from dinner with a friend when a car pulled up to her red Ford Tempo and fired twice. Arquette was shot in the left temple and cheek, and her car veered off the road before crashing into a telephone pole. After being rushed to the hospital, she fell into a coma and died 24 hours later, surrounded by her family and boyfriend.

    Arquette was only 18 at the time. She had recently graduated from Highland High School in Albuquerque and planned to attend the University of New Mexico in the fall, with long-term plans to become a doctor.

    Police would eventually determine Arquette's murder to be a random shooting, but her family wasn't so sure.

  • Arquette's Mother Was Lois Duncan, The Teen Horror Author Who Wrote ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Arquette's Mother Was Lois Duncan, The Teen Horror Author Who Wrote ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’

    Arquette was the daughter of electrical engineer Donald Arquette and famed teen horror writer Lois Duncan. Duncan wrote a number of bestselling novels in the 1970s and '80s, including Killing Mr. Griffin, Stranger with My Face, and most notably, I Know What You Did Last Summer.

    Following Arquette's murder, Duncan would use her own research skills in an attempt to solve the case after becoming frustrated with the police investigation. "If you look far enough, there’s this thread," Duncan said of the case in one interview. "It’s not necessarily a strong thread. It’s not a chain. The whole thing is like a cobweb."

  • Arquette And Her Boyfriend, Dung Nguyen, Had Been Fighting The Day She Died
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    Arquette And Her Boyfriend, Dung Nguyen, Had Been Fighting The Day She Died

    After graduating from high school, Arquette moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, Dung Nguyen, who was eight years older than her. The couple reportedly began fighting once they moved in together, and Arquette had told her mother that she was going to break up with Nguyen.

    Among other issues, Arquette indicated that Nguyen's friends would make fun of her and that she felt threatened by them, even going so far as to change the locks on her apartment several times.

  • Five Days After The Murder, Nguyen Stabbed Himself In The Stomach

    On the evening following Arquette's funeral, Nguyen was staying with friends at the local Air Force base. His friends returned to the barracks one evening to find Nguyen covered in blood. He had apparently stabbed himself with a 4-inch knife.

    When questioned by authorities about why he'd stabbed himself, Nguyen claimed he wanted to take his own life over the guilt he felt about Arquette's death. He believed that if they hadn't fought that day, she wouldn't have been out driving that night.

  • Investigations Cleared Nguyen Of Any Wrongdoing, But Some Of Arquette’s Family Remained Unsure

    Police showed up at Arquette's apartment around 3 am on July 17 to inform Nguyen of the shooting. Nguyen told authorities that he had been out with friends, and police found a handwritten note from Arquette that let Nguyen know she would be going out for the evening and was sorry they had fought.

    Police questioned Nguyen and subsequently cleared him of any involvement in Arquette's murder. However, Lois Duncan believed Nguyen knew more than what he was telling police. Duncan also believed the note Nguyen showed police was not actually written by Arquette.

  • Nguyen Was Reportedly Involved In A Large-Scale Insurance Scam
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    Nguyen Was Reportedly Involved In A Large-Scale Insurance Scam

    As the investigation into Arquette's murder continued, police discovered that Nguyen had been involved in an insurance scam where individuals would stage accidents in order to collect money from insurance companies. These staged accidents were allegedly linked to a group of "powerful members" of a Vietnamese community in Southern California.

    According to Unsolved Mysteries, Arquette had participated in one of the accidents and used the $1,500 insurance check to get her own apartment with Nguyen.

    Arquette's family speculated that her knowledge of the scam and the fear that she might tell authorities led to her murder.