AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man charged in the death of an 80-year-old Pflugerville man earlier this month may actually be a “serial killer,” Austin law enforcement officials announced last week.
Raul Meza Jr., 62, was most recently charged with the murder of his roommate Jesse Fraga, 80. During his conversation with detectives, Meza also implicated himself in the murder of Gloria Lofton, 65, in 2019, according to police.
Law enforcement now say there are additional cold cases they’re looking at in connection to Meza, who also previously spent time in prison for the 1982 rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl.
So what comes next for Meza? Here is some of our conversation with Austin defense attorney, Rick Cofer, about Meza’s legal future. This transcript has been edited for brevity:
First, can you give an idea of legally what this is going to look like moving forward?
Short version, Raul Meza is in deep trouble. He has three pending charges right now in Travis County. One of which is Capital Murder, punishable by either death or life without parole. Second charge is murder, punishable by a minimum of 5-maximum of 99 years or life in prison. He also has a lower level charge.
Do they wait until some of these other cold cases have been sorted through or do they go ahead with these charges?
All capital murder cases are complicated and difficult. That becomes even more complex when we’re talking about a potential serial killer. It could be the case that Mr. Meza is charged with anywhere from 5-10 murders.
People following these cases should expect that the cases will individually move forward. This is going to be a very long, multi-year process. The way the law works in Texas, people are not tried for who they are but for what they’ve done. Mr. Meza will be entitled to a jury trial, if he so chooses, on each individual murder charge against him because it appears at this time that all of the charges are separate incidences.
Will his previous murder case be admissible? And the time he previously spent in prison?
Mr. Meza’s prior criminal history, which includes a conviction for a brutal murder in the 1980s is going to play a significant role moving forward with his new murder allegations. For one, it is admissible at the punishment phase of any future trial. And number two, it is possible albeit unlikely, that if Mr. Meza used the same manner and means and had the same pattern of conduct that it could potentially be admissible at the guilt/innocence phase. That’s a lot less likely.
With what you have seen that has been presented so far, largely by the police department, what do you expect will be brought forward in these trials as they’re tried independently?
Number one question I have as a practitioner in Travis County is this: Will the Travis County District Attorney seek the death penalty in the capital murder case against Mr. Meza? It has been a long time since there has been a death penalty case in Travis County. But the facts and the allegations here may rise to the level where the district attorney feels it’s appropriate to seek the death penalty.
Can you explain what kind of burden it would cause to seek the death penalty versus not?
In a death penalty trial, the district attorney has to be close to perfect. Because the stakes are so high and the death penalty case, it may make sense for the district attorney to simply pursue a traditional murder charge, which can be punishable with anywhere from five years to life in prison, especially given the fact that the defendant here is already over 60 years old.
You can find all of KXAN’s coverage on the Raul Meza Jr. investigation here.