DNA leads Goodyear detectives to arrest in '97 cold case homicide

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The following is a news release from the Goodyear Police Department.

GOODYEAR -- The Goodyear Police Department's Person's Crimes Unit used DNA evidence to make an arrest from an investigation which began nearly 12 years ago.

In the early evening hours of June 8, 1997, officers received a report of a body being found in an irrigation ditch in Goodyear, Arizona. The body was later identified as Avelina Contreras, 24. Detectives determined that Ms. Contreras had been stabbed and strangled to death.

Avelina Contreras, a resident from Glendale, Arizona, had been last seen at her residence in Glendale, Arizona before her body was discovered in Goodyear, Arizona.

Detectives from the Goodyear Police Department conducted the investigation and the crime scene was processed for evidence. At the time, minimal evidence was recovered from the crime scene, and detectives developed a few leads in the case. Despite attempts to solve the crime, the case grew cold. Evidence collected at the crime scene was submitted to the AZ Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.

In 2007, the investigation was assumed by the Goodyear Police Department Person's Crimes Unit after collected evidence was checked against national databases using the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and it determined that DNA evidence found at the crime scene belonged to Arturo Pena Nevarez, AKA: Miguel Garcia Silva. Nevarez is an alien from Mexico who previously resided in Phoenix, AZ with a history of drug offenses. Nevarez served a 5 year sentence in the Arizona Department of Corrections for dangerous drug offenses and was serving that sentence at the time of the CODIS match.

Criminalists from the AZ Department of Public Safety laboratory analyzed the DNA from the crime scene evidence and compared it with DNA taken from Nevarez during his incarceration. The DNA matched and Detectives began to concentrate on locating Nevarez.

Detectives contacted and interviewed Nevarez and based on information obtained in the interviews, Arturo Nevarez, age 41, was arrested on May 28, 2009 and has been charged with one count of First Degree Murder. Nevarez was served with the indictment at the Maricopa County 4th Avenue Jail where he had been booked and is being held on $500,000 bond.