Both women were 27 and worked as bartenders at local nightclubs. Both had aspirations: Mason to be a dental hygienist and Glass to finish her communications degree at the University of Phoenix.
But on Dec. 3, 2010, Mason and Glass were found behind the locked doors of their home a little after noon, strangled — the victims of a brutal slaying that remains frustratingly unsolved.
Mason was two months pregnant at the time of her death, making the crime a triple homicide under Arizona law. Phoenix police have stated that there was no evidence of forced entry or burglary.
There are no suspects, no motive and no movement in this high-profile homicide that has stumped police for more than a decade.
At a sparsely attended press conference on Dec. 1 at 7th and Lincoln streets, Phoenix police and relatives of Glass promoted an electronic billboard offering a $13,000 reward from Silent Witness for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the deaths.
Sgt. Brian Bower, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department, said the killings are “considered a cold case” but that “these cases can get reopened just as quickly” with new information from the public. Tips can be provided anonymously through Silent Witness.
“We don’t know exactly when this triple homicide took place,” Bower said. “Detectives suspect from the timeline that it happened between Dec. 2 and Dec. 3, 2010, around midnight.”
According to Bower, despite evidence collected at the scene, investigators “don’t have a lot of answers to provide to the media or the community.”
At the press conference, Rachel Glass, Nicole’s mother, said she was supposed to see her daughter on Dec. 3, 2010, to help with something at her house. But Glass had been working nights and was too tired to go to her daughter’s residence.
She called Nicole around 11 a.m., but her daughter didn’t answer, so she left her a voicemail, telling her she would help her over the weekend.
Rachel Glass had gotten her hair done that morning by a friend of Nicole’s. Around 5 p.m., she received a call from the hairdresser.
“She said, ‘Turn on the TV. I think Nicole and Melissa are dead inside the house,’” Glass recalled. “So I turned on the TV and there’s a picture of my daughter’s house, her car and Melissa’s car, and they said two 27-year-old women are dead inside the house.”
Glass called the police and drove to her daughter’s home, but the police “didn’t tell us until 3 o’clock the next morning that it was her.” Glass had to return to the house to secure the door since firefighters broke it when they entered. A friend of the women had called for help when she saw the arm of someone lying on the floor through a window.
Glass said she felt as though her daughter was getting her life together.
“It was great; she was talking about getting married one day,” she said, although she noted that her daughter didn’t have a boyfriend at the time. “When she died, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I should be planning a wedding, not a funeral. It was devastating. Just devastating.”
She said her daughter and Mason met each other at work and had been roommates “for five or six years, off and on.” She declined to speculate on who may have killed them.
Given the time of year the murders took place, the holidays are difficult for Glass and her family.
“Once this is over though, today, then I’m better because this creates a lot of anxiety for me,” she said of the press event.
“I’m trying not to let any of this make me absolutely batshit crazy. I still have to live my life, and it’s just terrible,” Glass added. “I never imagined my life would be like this, and not to be a grandma, not to have my daughter. That was really important for me. I really wanted to be a grandma.”
‘We’re going into year 14 and no answers’Many of Mason’s relatives are in Tucson, though her younger sister, Samantha Valenzuela, lives in New Mexico and has three children of her own. Now 33, Valenzuela was 20 at the time of her big sister’s death and lived in Tucson.
She told Phoenix New Times on Sunday that the holidays are “bittersweet” for her. Her three children were born after her sister’s death, but she talks to them about Mason all the time.
“It’s nice that her memory can live on through them,” she said.
Valenzuela praised Rachel Glass for all she’s done to remind the public about the murders. But she worried about the passage of time and the number of different detectives who have worked the case over the years, comparing the situation to a game of “telephone,” where information gets distorted or lost as it's passed from one person to the next.
“We’re going into year 14 and no answers,” she said. “We’re at square one. I just literally feel like the people in the police department have put their hands up.”
In a July 2022 episode of the acclaimed true crime podcast “The Deck,” Dom Roestenberg, a detective with Phoenix police's Cold Case Unit, said that the evidence in the investigation is about the same as in 2010. He called it “forensically tapped.”
The podcast described how Rachel Glass hired a private investigator, who uncovered the possibility that her daughter became a confidential informant for Phoenix police after pleading guilty to a minor drug-related charge. Glass sued the city of Phoenix in 2016, accusing the police of negligence and failing to protect Nicole from possible violence.
But the city and Glass agreed to dismiss the suit in 2017. Glass told New Times that during discovery for the lawsuit, city representatives stated under oath that her daughter had not been a confidential informant. Glass dropped the suit.
A 2015 piece by New Times described how Mason’s boyfriend saw both women the night before they were murdered. He had recently learned that he was the father of Mason’s unborn child. The boyfriend was cooperative with the police and passed a polygraph test. “The Deck” also reported that the boyfriend gave police a DNA sample.
Valenzuela told New Times she’s convinced the boyfriend had nothing to do with the killings. She said her mom, who still lives in the Tucson area, has endured “unimaginable pain” from the loss of her daughter and an unborn grandchild.
She said that after the murders, she and other family members had to “clean out the house and get my sister’s stuff.” They discovered a Ziplock bag containing her sister’s pregnancy test with the words “Merry Christmas” written on it in black ink.
“That was what she was planning to give my mom to tell her she was pregnant,” she said.
Valenzuela confessed that it was difficult to remain hopeful about a break in the case as it enters its 14th year.
“Solving the case is more for us, the survivors,” she said. “I just kind of lean on my faith. I know my sister is not suffering. I like to think that she’s in heaven with her baby, watching down on us and protecting us.”
If you have information about these murders, please contact Silent Witness by calling 480-WITNESS or submitting a tip online.