A new collaborative effort to solve cold cases has led to an indictment for a murder that remained unsolved for more than three decades. Teodoro Barron Corella, Jr. faces one count of First Degree Murder for allegedly strangling 25-year-old Karen Casanova to death in January, 1982.
The indictment is the first to emerge from a partnership between Phoenix Police Department homicide detectives, the Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab and a newly-created cold case unit in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
“This partnership is the latest example of how law enforcement agencies in Maricopa County are coming together to share information and resources and collaborate to solve serious crimes,” said City of Phoenix Chief of Police Daniel Garcia. “With new technology and investigative teamwork, we hope to be able to reopen many more cold cases that might otherwise remain unsolved,” he added.
The killing of Karen Casanova is one of many unsolved cases the partnership intends to re-examine using advances in forensic DNA analysis and investigatory techniques that were unavailable at the time of the original crime. Senior prosecutors in the County Attorney’s Office will assist 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.
“The passage of time has not diminished our commitment to achieve justice in these cases which can now be investigated with a new set of tools and resources,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “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,” he added.
Karen Casanova was found dead on January 31, 1982 in a vacant field just east of the roadway near 2003 South 20th Street 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 (CODIS) 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 which testable samples had been collected. 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 Teodoro Corella.
Investigators learned that Corella, age 56, had been convicted of a sexual assault in California, but he fled to Phoenix prior to being sentenced and before the killing of Karen Casanova. 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 was convicted of Aggravated Assault in 1992. He served time in the Arizona Department of Corrections and was ordered to register as a sex offender. On July 11, 2013, Corella was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. Interviews with Corella and additional investigations led to his indictment for the Casanova murder on October 22, 2013.