Fresno man arrested in 17-year-old Arizona cold case murder

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A Fresno man was arrested this week in connection to the 2001 murder of an Arizona man, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said Thursday.

On Monday, Frank Gallas Mendoza was arrested by authorities in Fresno in the murder of Richard Cacero Lucero, 56.

On Dec. 20, 2001, El Mirage police conducted a welfare check at the residence of Richard Cacero Lucero at the request of a family friend, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) said. Officers gained entry to Lucero’s home and found him dead.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Lucero’s death was a homicide.

The case eventually went cold after AZDPS exhausted all leads and investigative techniques available at the time.

Recently, the AZDPS’s cold cases were reviewed to determine whether additional evidence could be developed utilizing new technology, the agency said. The Lucero case was a prime candidate for current DNA and latent print analysis techniques.

Latent prints located at the Lucero murder scene were entered into the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system (NGI) and Mendoza’s record was identified.

AZDPS and Fresno detectives arrested Mendoza at his California residence without incident.

“It was an honor to work next to such a professional law enforcement agency and to remove a violent murder suspect from our streets,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Mendoza is expected to be extradited to Arizona to face murder charges.

AZDPS Director Colonel Frank Milstead said,”Advances in latent print and DNA testing helped our detectives make an arrest in this horrific and until now unsolved murder. I know the arrest of suspect Mendoza is a great relief to the family of the victim. It is yet another example of the excellent work of criminalists in the State Crime Lab and the perseverance of our detectives. We now look forward to the successful prosecution of the suspect in this case.”

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