AUSTIN (KXAN) - Esme Barrera, who in January became Austin's first homicide of 2012, was murdered by the man who took his own life a few days later, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Thursday.
"Ultimately, there was no evidence to suggest that this murder was committed by anyone other than James Brown," Acevedo said at a news conference.
The announcement that Brown killed the 29-year-old Austin woman closes a case that galvanized the city just short of a year ago. Police said they linked a bloody shoe print at the crime seen to Brown.
Detectives were able to prove, using financial records, that Brown bought the same style of shoe in the same size back in 2010.
"We searched James Brown's apartment extensively and those shoes were never found," said Detective Brett Bailey. "We believe they were discarded."
Barrera, a mentor to young female musicians and also worked at Cass Elementary School, was killed inside her home on the 3100 block of King Street just around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Just before 3 a.m. on New Year's Day, police said EMS was called out for a welfare check in the 3100 block of King Street in north central Austin. When medical personnel arrived, they found Barrera dead inside the home.
Brown, 25, killed himself in early January by asphyxia. He was a Navy veteran who had lived in Austin for a year and a half. He lived at the home where police found him since July 2011.
Authorities on Jan. 12 found Brown with a plastic bag over his head, secured with packing tape. His hands were handcuffed behind his back, according to officials. A suicide note was also found at the scene.
But police were hamstrung somewhat by the fact that they found no DNA evidence linking Brown to Barrera, the said early in the investigation. However, DNA evidence gathered at Brown's home following his suicide positively linked Brown to an attack in the 300 block of East 31st Street .
That attack happened several hours after Barrera's murder only blocks away. The DNA found at that attack matched several assaults that happened in South Austin last summer, to which Brown has also been linked.
At a news conference at police headquarters on Thursday, Acevedo and detectives said diligent police work in the absence of DNA and the actual shoe that made the print help them shepherd the case to closure.
"There was no DNA evidence and what solved this was just dogged, just absolutely dogged police work," said Acevedo.
The bloody shoe print found outside Barrera's apartment was analyzed by the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab, which was able to determine the brand and size of the shoe.
A review of Brown's credit card transactions over the past few years turned up a receipt for the size and brand of the shoe in question. The purchase was made in Boston sometime in 2010, police said.
Meanwhile, they were able to glean data from Brown's magnetic house key that showed him entering and leaving the residence at a time that matched the attack on Barrera. Police also found inside Brown's home a composite sketch that police had posted in the days immediately after Barrera's killing.
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