A Fresno, California man has been convicted of first-degree murder in a case dating back more than 21 years.
On December 20, 2001, Richard Lucero was found dead in his El Mirage home with a ligature around his neck. The AZDPS Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was requested by the El Mirage Police Department to conduct the death investigation, and SIU investigators determined the manner of death was homicide.
The case initially went cold after all leads and investigative techniques were exhausted at the time. However, with steady advances in DNA analysis, evidence was reanalyzed by the State Crime Lab in 2018 and tested using advanced DNA and latent print analysis techniques. Latent prints entered into a national database matched a record for Frank Gallas Mendoza, who was previously unknown to investigators.
The lab also examined a single source of DNA found on multiple items throughout Lucero’s home, including the ligature around Lucero’s neck. Detectives obtained Mendoza’s DNA, and it was compared to DNA evidence collected from the crime scene. The lab determined the DNA found at the scene belonged to Mendoza.
On September 24, 2018, with assistance from the Fresno Police Department, Mendoza was arrested for the premeditated first-degree murder of Richard Lucero.
Mendoza’s trial began on August 11, 2023, in the Maricopa County Superior Court. On August 15, 2023, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict, bringing the case to a close more than two decades after Lucero’s murder.
Mendoza’s sentencing is scheduled to take place on September 12, 2023.
Read the news release on Mendoza's 2018 arrest at azdps.gov/news/releases/881.