California man found guilty of 1st-degree murder in 2001 homicide of El Mirage resident

Sep 4, 2023, 11:33 AM | Updated: 11:35 am

two photos showing victim and perpetrator...

Frank Mendoza (right) was recently found guilty of the first-degree murder of El Mirage resident Richard Lucero (left) in 2001.(Arizona Department of Public Safety photos)

(Arizona Department of Public Safety photos)

PHOENIX — A California man was recently found guilty of the first-degree murder of a West Valley resident more than two decades ago.

Frank Gallas Mendoza is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 12 after a jury returned a unanimous verdict last month, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

Richard Lucero, of El Mirage, was found on Dec. 20, 2021, dead inside his home with a ligature around his neck.

The death was determined to be a homicide, but the case went cold after all leads and techniques were exhausted, DPS said.

“However, with steady advances in DNA analysis, evidence was reanalyzed by the State Crime Lab in 2018 and tested using advance DNA and latent print analysis techniques,” DPS said in a press release.

Latent prints entered into the system matched a record for Mendoza, who investigators previously did not know.

Further, the lab examined a single source of DNA found on various items throughout Lucero’s home and compared it to the suspect, consequently matching the DNA found at the scene to Mendoza.

Mendoza was arrested for first-degree murder on Sept. 24, 2018, with the help of the Fresno Police Department.

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California man found guilty of 1st-degree murder in 2001 homicide of El Mirage resident