Texas girl’s killer faces new murder charges, may be ‘serial killer,’ police say

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 12:58 AM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A man run out of multiple cities and towns across Texas after he served prison time for the slaying of an 8-year-old girl in the 1980s has been arrested in connection with two other murders, and police say they are reopening several cold cases that could be linked to him.

Raul Meza Jr., 62, was arrested Monday in the deaths of Jesse Fraga and Gloria Lofton, Austin police announced Tuesday. He remained jailed Wednesday and is facing charges including capital murder.

Travis County Clerk’s Office records list Russell Hunt as Meza’s lawyer. Hunt said they just got the case and are still reviewing the facts and declined to comment further.

Police in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville said May 23 they were looking for Meza in connection with the death of his roommate, 80-year-old Fraga. Officers found Fraga’s body May 20 while doing a wellness check after loved ones hadn’t heard from him for several days.

Austin police said Meza called them May 23 and confessed to killing Fraga. Police said he included details that had not been made public, although they did not disclose those details.

Police said Meza also implicated himself in the 2019 death of Lofton. He did not name her, but said the street name where she was killed.

Lofton, 66, was strangled to death.

Meza pleaded guilty in 1982 to raping and murdering 8-year-old Kendra Paige, whose body was found behind an Austin elementary school. He served over 10 years of his 30-year sentence and was released on parole in 1993, with credit for time served and good behavior.

At the time of the girl’s killing, Meza was on parole for robbing a convenience store and shooting a man, leaving him with permanent injuries, police said.

Eight to 10 cold cases going back to 1996 are being investigated as possibly connected to Meza, and the number could rise, Austin Police Department detective Katie Conner said in a news conference Tuesday. She said there appeared to be no immediate connections between the victims and that the cases “fit the circumstances” that they were looking at, but did not elaborate further on what those were.

When Meza was arrested, police said, he was carrying a backpack containing zip ties, a flashlight, duct tape and a .22 caliber pistol with extra rounds.

“Meza said he was ready and prepared to kill again and looking forward to it,” Austin Police Department detective Patrick Reed said.

After being released on parole in the girl’s killing, residents of Texas cities large and small protested when he moved there. He was forced to move from El Paso, San Antonio, Wichita Falls, Mineral Wells, and Sweetwater. After moving to rural Uvalde County, west of San Antonio, to live with his grandparents, he was jailed again after his family said he had verbally abused them.

“Somebody made a bad decision 41 years ago and let this guy for whatever reason manipulate the system and justice was not served,” said Bruce Mills, Austin’s assistant city manager who was a police investigator on the 8-year-old girl’s case.