FLORENCE — An Eloy man accused of killing a 92-year-old man in 2009 had his criminal charges dismissed Friday in Superior Court.
Judge Joseph Georgini ordered that 58-year-old Arturo Jimenez be released from custody after the defendant spent more than four years at the Pinal County jail awaiting trial.
The prosecution asked that Jimenez’s capital murder case be dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
Gary Husk, a special prosecutor for Navajo County, called this an “unusual” case because, from the beginning, he said there was some doubt about the evidence that pointed to Jimenez. The truth is prosecutors don’t know for sure who committed this murder, he said, so it would have been a “travesty” to try and prosecute Jimenez.
A grand jury indicted Jimenez in October 2013 for the first-degree murder of Norberto Castro, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat at his Eloy home in September 2009.
Jimenez became the prime suspect after the Arizona Department of Public Safety found some DNA on the victim’s screen door that was traced to the defendant.
Despite choosing to indict Jimenez, court documents show the grand jury returned an unsolicited comment to the court “implying that the evidence implicating the defendant was questionable.”
The case changed hands between different attorneys in the following years. In 2016, the election of Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer created a conflict due to his prior work as a private attorney and the case was outsourced to Husk.
The state and defense then engaged in a lengthy review of the DNA evidence against Jimenez.
The murder weapon and other pieces of evidence were submitted to an independent laboratory in Utah for testing, but no DNA was found on any of the items aside from the victim’s.
In March, the parties had a settlement conference with a Maricopa County judge, who recommended a DNA expert be appointed by the court to review the case.
A former FBI investigator was recruited and determined DPS violated its own protocol with the way it tested the DNA taken from Castro’s screen door. Therefore, the only DNA evidence tied to Jimenez was unreliable.
Robert Storrs, one of Jimenez’s attorneys, said he always doubted the DNA evidence in this case. He filed a motion last summer to suppress the evidence at trial.
If the DNA was precluded, the state would have had little else to help convict Jimenez.
In his motion to dismiss the case, Husk pointed out the state would have had more trouble trying to call the original investigators to testify because they no longer work for the Eloy Police Department.
One of the primary investigators, Janell Brashier, resigned from EPD in 2011 and later had her peace officer certification revoked.
Last month, Brashier pleaded guilty in federal court to theft and fraud charges related to lost money orders at a U.S. post office.
Another of the investigators was dismissed by EPD for improperly taking evidence from a crime scene.
Because of these instances, the credibility of the former investigators would have been questioned if they were called to testify in court.
Husk said the Police Department will essentially have to start from scratch with its investigation into Castro’s death.
Eloy Police Chief Chris Vasquez told PinalCentral in an email that his agency will keep an open mind about the case and go wherever the facts lead.
Before he was indicted for murder, Jimenez was given a 10-month prison sentence for a criminal trespassing charge in Pinal County.
It appears he was released from prison about a week before Castro’s dead body was discovered, according to dates listed on the Arizona Department of Corrections website.
Jimenez’s case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the state could try to prosecute him again if new evidence is discovered.
As Georgini read aloud his order to dismiss, an emotional Jimenez quietly said “thank you.”