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N4T Investigators: Lost files may doom cold case murder investigation

DOUGLAS, Ariz. – It was a murder that took place in Douglas 33 years ago.

The victim’s family wants someone held responsible, but a simple mistake in the storage of police homicide files could prevent that from ever happening.

Patricia Alvarez was only 23-years old when she was murdered.

Her killer was never found.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned that solving the case, along with countless others, could prove to be an impossible task

On Aug.18, 1986, Patricia Alvarez, known as Paty, was murdered.

“She was like a second mom to me. She was patient, she was loving, she was beautiful, she was so beautiful,” said Paty’s niece, Melissa Long.

Long was just seven-years-old when her aunt Paty was murdered.

“I admired her. She was always so dreamy. I loved the relationship she had with my mother they were best friends,” Long told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Cecelia Becerra not only was Paty’s best friend – but she was also her big sister.

“I wished I could take this all away and bring her back but I can’t and so all I am asking for is justice to be done,” Becerra said.

Her mission now is to get answers.

“I do feel in my heart that Paty is with me and that she is going to be the support that I need to make me go forward with my mission,” Becerra told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Alvarez, a single mother, was found dead in the Coronado Courts apartments. Her nine-month-old son was with her.

According to an article in the Douglas Daily Dispatch, Alvarez was found strangled and stabbed.

At the time, the Douglas police chief said there were several suspects in the ongoing investigation, but no arrests have been made.

Douglas Police detectives also requested help from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, because of their expertise in homicide investigations.

The chief went on to say he expects that arrests would be made soon in the case.

However, more than three decades later, Paty’s murder remains unsolved.

Worse yet it may never be solved.

This year, on the anniversary of her death, Paty’s sister called the current police chief to check on the case.

That’s when she found out the case file was lost.

“We were never notified, and I believe that they should have notified us and let us know that these files were lost. So along with my sister’s files, I’m sure there are other files that are missing,” Becerra told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators went to the Douglas Police Department looking for answers.

“They’re frustrated, and I can understand and appreciate their frustration. I’m equally frustrated because I am being asked for answers that I don’t have,” Douglas Police Chief Kraig Fullen told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Chief Fullen started with the department in 1997 and became chief in 2017.

He admits it wasn’t until the family asked about Paty’s case when he learned about the lost files.

“That’s what prompted us to look for information on the case, and that’s when we determined that a portion of the case file case was missing. The actual case file is missing,” Chief Fullen told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

So what happened to it?

“I don’t have a definitive answer as to what happened to the case file, I’m told we had our basement flooded in 1995 and that a number of police records were impacted by that,” Chief Fullen said.

To make matters worse, rebuilding the case may prove to be an impossible task.

“Unfortunately to my knowledge, there wasn’t a log of what cases were involved. So, I don’t know and I can’t definitively say that this case is one of those. I just know that we have not located the case file,” Chief Fullen told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators also wanted to know how many other cases are affected.

“I don’t know which case files were affected, but there could be more. There could be more. Yes,” Fullen said.

Paty’s family met with Chief Fullen hoping her murder could still be solved.

“Unfortunately the chief of police Kraig Fullen did not give me any promises. Pretty much was collective and helpful, but nothing definite,” Becerra told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Chief Fullen did tell the family that detectives would go back to talk to some people who were involved in the case.

“That will give us an opportunity to see what from this case that we can salvage without making a promise because I don’t want to commit a promise when I don’t know where this path might lead,” Chief Fullen told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

The family hopes the path will lead to justice.

The chief also told the family they did find the physical evidence from the case. It’s with the Arizona Department of Public Safety in Phoenix. The family wants it to be sent to the lab for DNA testing. Something that was not available in 1986.

Chief Fullen also asked if there are families whose cases have not yet been solved to please contact the Douglas Police Department at (520) 417-7550.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham

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