A new multi-agency effort to crack cold cases led to an indictment for a murder that remained unsolved for more than three decades.
The partnerships of Phoenix police homicide detectives, the department's crime lab and a newly-formed cold case unit in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office led a grand jury to hand up an indictment last week against 56-year-old Teodoro Barron Corella Jr.
Corella faces one count of first-degree murder for allegedly strangling 25-year-old Karen Casanova to death in January 1982.
Casanova's killing is one of many unsolved cases the partnership intends to re-examine using advances in forensic DNA analysis and investigative techniques that were unavailable at the time of the original crime.
Senior prosecutors in the County Attorney's Office will help with specific legal issues that arise in the course of these investigations to ensure that potential charges are supported with sufficient evidence and a reasonable likelihood of conviction.
"I am confident that with the combined expertise of our respective agencies, this partnership will allow us to hold offenders accountable for crimes committed years and even decades ago," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Casanova was found dead on Jan. 31, 1982 in a vacant field just east of the roadway near 2003 South 20th St. in Phoenix. Detectives who investigated the apparent homicide were unable to identify possible leads at the time. Evidence collected from the victim's body during a subsequent autopsy did not point to a possible suspect and the case went cold.
The creation of the FBI's Combined DNA Index System in the mid-'90s created a process for sharing DNA evidence among crime laboratories and provided a new avenue for the investigation of decades-old cases.
In 2011, Phoenix police investigators submitted the victim's fingernail clippings for DNA testing by its crime lab. The following year, a CODIS match was found with a sample from the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab belonging to Corella.
Investigators learned that Corella had been convicted of a sexual assault in California, but fled to Phoenix prior to being sentenced and before Casanova's killing. He was later arrested on a failure to appear warrant and returned to California where he served a prison sentence for the earlier assault.
He subsequently returned to Arizona and in 1992, was convicted of aggravated assault. He served time in the Arizona Department of Corrections and was ordered to register as a sex offender.
On July 11, Corella was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. Interviews with Corella and additional investigation led to his indictment for the Casanova murder on Oct. 22.
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