Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu announced on Monday that detectives have linked two cold-case murders to drug traffickers. Human remains found in 2009 and in 2014, less than a mile apart, have been identified as Baltazar Lopez and Azaren Cordova, both 36-years-old at the time of their disappearance and both reported missing from west Phoenix on April 27, 2008.
The investigation began in 2008 with the discovery of a victim’s burned out truck.
In May of 2008, a 2003 Ford truck that had been burned to the frame was found by Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies. Investigation revealed the vehicle belonged to missing person, Baltazar Lopez. It was discovered to have been burned on a farm in unincorporated Maricopa, five days after the disappearance of Baltazar and Azaren. Detectives from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department were unable to identify any suspects or leads at the time.
In January of 2009, PCSO deputies were called to a desert wash near Pinal Avenue and Rodeo Road in unincorporated Casa Grande, where hikers reported finding a human skull. Deputies recovered the skull and discovered a shallow grave nearby, where more human remains were found. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the deceased was a homicide victim and the body had been dismembered prior to being buried in the shallow grave. They were not able to identify the remains and were not able to determine how long the body had been there. The case remained unsolved and the victim was considered a “John Doe”.
In September of 2014, Pinal County deputies responded to a home in the 18,000 block of W. Jacqueline Avenue, in unincorporated Casa Grande, on reports of a human skull found in a septic tank. A septic maintenance company was cleaning out the septic tank on the property and their hose became clogged with a human skull. They ceased operations and called authorities. The discovery lead to the recovery of a mostly complete human skeleton from inside the underground tank and from the tank of the septic maintenance truck.