‘Suspicions from the very beginning:’ Help needed to solve a 1982 murder in Kerman


FRESNO, California (KSEE) – The family of a slain Fresno County woman is asking for help in a decades-old cold case.

Irene Garza was 24-years-old when she was found dead in the backyard of her Kerman home.

It happened on July 13, 1982. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims was a Kerman police officer at the time. She was one of two who responded to the call.

“It was very suspicions from the very beginning,” Mims said.

Mims called the case ‘personal’ and said it was one of her first homicides and she still remembers the day it happened.

“It was very early in my career, but it has stuck in my mind,” she said.

Irene’s husband 26-year-old Abel Garza reported his house on 8th street was burglarized while he and their three young children slept.

Investigators said he did not mention his wife until they arrived when he said he had found her on the ground outside but did not check to see if she was alive. Officers and EMS checked her, found she was cold and pronounced her deceased.

Detectives said there was no evidence of forced entry or anything taken.

Mims believes Irene was experiencing domestic violence. Her sister said she did not know for sure, but had suspected this might be the case.

“You see in the pictures she was always smiling and after he married her the smile went away,” Juana Perales said.

Abel became a person of interest in her murder. He has denied the allegations and detectives have been unable to prove otherwise.

Mims said the department has a homicide detective who has come out of retirement specifically to work cold cases he believes have a higher probability of being solved.

“We truly need information from the public of people that want to help. Somebody out there may want to get something off their chest. This is the chance to do it,” she said.

Fresno County Sheriff’s detectives are asking for the community’s help to develop new leads that may help solve this case. Please contact Detective Sergio Toscano at 559-600-8027 or sergio.toscano@fresnosheriff.org.

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