Buckeye police detectives solved a 10-year-old homicide case with the arrest of a 42-year-old man, according to a release.
Antonio Padilla, 42, of Phoenix, was booked into a Maricopa County jail on a first-degree murder charge.
On Aug. 15, 2010, Buckeye police began a homicide investigation after finding the remains of Luis Victor Mendoza in an irrigation canal near Miller Road and Southern Avenue. Police said Mr. Mendoza had been shot four times with a .22 caliber handgun.
Investigators interviewed several witnesses and identified a potential suspect. However, police said leads dried up, and the investigation went cold.
In early July, the Buckeye Police Department’s recently formed Major Crimes Unit reopened the investigation. Detectives conducted extensive follow-up and identified key witnesses to the murder. All of them identified Antonio Padilla as the shooter, police said.
According to court documents, the homicide occurred Aug. 14, 2010 at a residence near 17th and Northern avenues in Phoenix. The defendant reportedly tried to contact the victim to get back a food stamp card that belonged to someone else. At some point, the defendant allegedly shot the victim several times.
Police learned the alleged suspect told several people at the apartment to clean any messes and also had them help dispose of the body. He further threatened to kill witnesses and their family if they told anyone of the incident, according to records.
Investigators later learned he was released from an Arizona prison in February after serving time for a weapons violation and gang activity.
The Phoenix Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Arizona Department of Public Safety were all instrumental in helping Buckeye police track down the defendant. In the early morning hours on Wednesday, July 22, Phoenix police located Antonio Padilla near 19th Avenue and Bell Road. With the help of DPS, they took him into custody during a traffic stop.
At the time of his arrest, police said the defendant was armed with a loaded semi-automatic rifle with a full magazine.
He was jailed in lieu of $1 million bond.
In May, Buckeye police Chief Larry Hall reorganized the department’s Criminal Investigation Division and created the Major Crimes Unit. Two highly experienced homicide detectives were added to the team of an already talented group of investigators, police said.
“This is exactly the kind of outcome I expected when forming this team,” Mr. Hall stated. “I have no doubt there will be a resolve to more unsolved cold cases in the near future.”
The Major Crimes Unit is focused on taking violent criminals off the streets.