Police department admits it didn’t act on key evidence in 2019 Texas murder case until suspect confessed

Officers found a DNA match for suspect Raul Meza Jr in 2020, but he wasn’t arrested until 2023

Dan Gooding
Thursday 18 April 2024 17:30 BST
Police arrest man suspected of 'multiple murders'

A police department in Texas has admitted it did not act on key evidence in a 2019 murder case, with the suspect then going on to allegedly commit at least one other murder before his arrest in 2023.

Raul Meza Jr, 63, allegedly admitted to killing Gloria Lofton, after calling the Austin Police Department last May and confessing to killing his roommate Jesse Fraga that month.

Lofton was found strangled at her home on 9 May 2019, but Mr Meza wasn’t caught despite a reported DNA match in 2020. A note at the house in her handwriting, mentioning him by name, also allegedly went overlooked by investigators.

In a recent interview with NBC News, Lofton’s daughter Christina Fultz said she was furious to learn that APD did not act on key evidence which could have potentially prevented Fraga’s death.

She said that after her mother died, officers gave away few details on the cause of death, and she presumed that Lofton had had an accident while drunk at home.

When Ms Fultz and her sister, Sonia Houston, searched their mother’s home a few days after her body was discovered, they found blood in the hallway and on a pillow, along with a used condom and lube wrapped in a latex glove.

At the time, they still put this down to their mother having an accident. However, Mr Meza’s arrest affidavit later showed that a sexual assault kit was used on their mother’s body, with a vaginal swab providing a DNA profile which matched the suspect in 2020, NBC News reported.

After Mr Meza’s confession three years later, Lofton’s cause of death was changed from undetermined to homicide by strangulation.

Raul Meza Jr is accused of murdering Gloria Lofton at her Austin home in 2019
Raul Meza Jr is accused of murdering Gloria Lofton at her Austin home in 2019 (AP)

Austin PD admitted to the oversight with the DNA report, with interim Police Chief Robin Henderson saying earlier this month that the department was “deeply sorry” for the error.

“​​We realise the impacts this has on the case itself, community and most importantly the victims and their families,” Henderson said in the statement released to NBC News.

“As soon as the error was brought to our attention, we addressed it as quickly as we could to identify how it happened and implemented policies to avoid incidents like this from reoccurring. Since this occurrence, the Austin Police Department has added redundancies into the notification process to ensure this does not happen again.”

The officer responsible won’t be disciplined, however, as the incident happened more than 180 days ago - the cut-off for action outlined in Texas state law.

Ms Fultz told NBC she was furious at the decision, adding that the family was not told before reading about it in the local press.

“In a role like this where you’re supposed to protect and serve, you’re not doing that,” Fultz said. “I would suggest that they go work at McDonald’s, where you can mess up somebody’s order and not kill somebody, potentially.”

The Independent has reached out to the police department for comment.

Another possible piece of overlooked evidence is also being questioned, the note found by the sisters as they searched the house, which mentioned the suspect by name.

It was in a notebook, in their mother’s handwriting, and Ms Fultz had videotaped it as part of a wider overview of the scene they found days after their mother’s death.

“I Gloria Elizabeth Lofton give permission to Raul Meza Jr to request a certificate of authority on my behalf for the purpose of…” the unfinished note said.

In the video, Ms Fultz’s sister could be heard saying “Who the hell is Raul Meza Jr?”, but in the effort to sort out their mother’s affairs, the note was forgotten about until December 2023.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office had asked the pair for the video taken that day and, in searching for it, there appeared Mr Meza’s name.

“I had a literal breakdown and panic attack,” Ms Fultz continued. “I got so sick with nerves and anger and just overwhelmed.”

The note would have been in the home when police searched it, but it appears to have not been noticed.

“It was there in front of us this whole time, and who knows how many deaths may have been prevented had they looked around a little bit further and a little bit harder?” Ms Fultz added.

In his arrest affidavit, Mr Meza reportedly told officers that he had been promised 25 per cent of an inheritance meant for Lofton’s nephew and that he would be compensated for killing her.

The sisters told NBC that their mother did not have any nephews, adding that it was unclear if another relative had offered Mr Meza money.

Following Mr Meza’s arrest last summer, officials said they were looking into possible connections with at least ten other deaths over the years.

The suspect served around a decade in prison for the killing of an 8-year-old girl in the early 1980s.

In the past few weeks, Mr Meza entered a plea to return to prison to serve two, 50-year sentences concurrently for the deaths of Lofton and Fraga.

A spokesperson for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office told The Independent that prosecutors had received that plea, but could not comment further on the active case.

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