AUSTIN (KXAN) — DNA evidence from several years ago had already linked Raul Meza Jr., 62, to the 2019 death of Gloria Lofton, 65. Now, he’s charged with her murder.
According to the Austin Police Department, they are investigating Meza in connection to several cold cases in the area, after arresting him earlier this week for Lofton’s death and the recent death of an 80-year-old Pflugerville man, Jesse Fraga.
An affidavit obtained by KXAN details what led to these charges.
Last week, Meza called 311 and told the responding officer he knew police were looking for him. On the call, he confessed to murdering a woman “on Sara Drive.”
Following the call, police looked into deaths of women on Sara Drive in Austin from 2013 to 2021. Gloria Lofton’s reported death on May 9, 2019, was the only incident that fit the description, according to the affidavit.
According to the final medical examiner report from July 30, 2019, the affidavit explains, that it is possible that Lofton had been strangled, based on observations of the state of her body. However, her cause and manner of death was “undetermined.” Because of other indicators at the scene, they conducted a forensic sexual assault exam.
In April 2020, the Texas Department of Public Safety Capital Area Regional Crime Lab obtained a DNA profile from the sample. They searched it against local, state and national databases, and in May 2020, they got a match — Raul Meza.
On May 25, the medical examiner’s office was made aware of the new information in Meza’s case. Based on that, she updated the cause of death to strangulation in the manner of homicide, per the affidavit.
KXAN investigators asked APD whether they were notified of the match in 2020 and whether anything prevented them from moving forward with the case at the time. An APD spokesperson told KXAN the agency is looking into our questions.
Law enforcement sources with the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) explained that establishing probable cause often depends on more evidence than just DNA, as a match sometimes can mean the person’s DNA is included as a contributor to the sample found at the crime scene.
“The term DNA match is misnomer. You’ll almost never get a 100% DNA match sample from an individual. What you get is a probability that his sample came from that person,” TMPA Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said, adding that sometimes that probability is overwhelming.
DNA testing in Austin and across the state has been tumultuous, over the last few years. It is not known whether the problems had any impact on the Meza case.
Nearly a decade ago, a backlog of untested sexual assault kits made national headlines.
Meanwhile, in 2016, an audit found lab technicians at the Austin laboratory used expired materials and flawed science while processing DNA — potentially causing problems with thousands of cases. The lab closed, and the police department contracted out forensics services through private companies, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Now, the city operates a forensics lab independent from the Austin Police Department.
This is a developing story. KXAN update this article as more details become available.