17-year El Mirage cold case murder solved by DPS using new technology

Contributed Article/Courtesy DPS

Contributed Photo/Courtesy DPS: Frank Mendoza

EL MIRAGE – On Sept. 24, Frank Gallas Mendoza was arrested by authorities in Fresno, California for the 2001 murder of El Mirage resident Richard Cacero Lucero.

On December 20, 2001, El Mirage police conducted a welfare check at the residence of Richard Cacero Lucero at the request of a family friend. Officers gained entry to Lucero’s home and found him deceased.

Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) detectives were asked to take over the death investigation due to the DPS’ available staffing and resources. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Lucero’s death was a homicide. The case eventually went cold after DPS exhausted all leads and investigative techniques available at the time.

Recently, the DPS’s cold cases were reviewed to determine whether additional evidence could be developed utilizing new technology. 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 a record bearing the name of Frank Gallas Mendoza was located.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy DPS: Richard Lucero

DPS and Fresno detectives arrested Mendoza at his California residence without incident. Mendoza is expected to be extradited to Arizona to face murder charges.

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

“Advances in latent print and DNA testing helped our detectives make an arrest in this horrific and until now unsolved murder,” said AZDPS Director, Colonel Frank Milstead. “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.”