Fingerprint helps solve 17-year cold case homicide
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New ways of analyzing fingerprints are credited with helping Arizona investigators solve a 17-year-old cold case out of El Mirage, the state Department of Public Safety announced Thursday.
Frank Gallas Mendoza was arrested Monday in Fresno, California, on suspicion of killing Richard Cacero Lucero, who was found dead in his El Mirage home on December 20, 2001. The DPS did not say how Lucero was killed.
DPS cold cases were recently reviewed to see what evidence could be used to investigate potential new leads, officials said Thursday at a news conference. Detectives entered fingerprints recovered from the crime scene into the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system, and the search came back with a match to Mendoza, whose prints were in the system from a previous arrest.
“They later confirmed with DNA that this is not only the right print, but the right DNA,” DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead said during Thursday’s announcement.
He lauded technology and the collaboration between departments, from the El Mirage Police Department, to investigators in California and at the federal level.
He also praised the “gumshoe police work” of local detectives.
“I know the arrest of suspect Mendoza is a great relief to the family of the victim,” Milstead said in a written statement announcing the arrest. “It is yet another example of the excellent work of criminalists in the State Crime Lab and the perseverance of our detectives.”
DPS investigators took over the case at the request of El Mirage police early in the investigation.
Mendoza is expected to be extradited to Arizona to face charges.
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