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Phoenix police make arrest in cold case from 1988

Gilbert Balderaz (Arizona Department of Corrections Photo)

PHOENIX — Police have arrested a suspect in a nearly 30-year-old cold case in Phoenix, it was announced Friday.

Robert Gamez was stabbed and killed near 29th Avenue and Buckeye Road in October 1988 by a then-unknown suspect. Detectives at the time worked extensively to solve the case, but it went cold.

The case was reopened in 2011 and investigators revisited Gamez’s belongings.

“They decided they were going to send [the items] over to the crime lab and have the crime lab check for any DNA or any evidence that might be outside that of the victim,” Phoenix police officer James Holmes said.

It took until the fall of 2015 for detectives to get a DNA match. The forensic evidence led investigators to 43-year-old Gilbert Balderaz, an inmate imprisoned at the state jail in Florence on unrelated charges.

Balderaz was indicted on one count of second-degree murder on March 8. He was transferred and booked into the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail on Thursday.

Detectives have not determined a motive for Gamez’s death.

Holmes said the department hopes to be able to re-examine more cold cases like this one in the future.

“We’re working on a series of grants from the federal government so that we can continue to look at these cold cases and see if we can’t find suspects,” Holmes said. “Our detectives do work hard to bring to justice those who commit violent crimes in our city. Their motto is don’t ever stop looking.”

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