Man arrested in 1978 murder of disabled veteran

Posted: Updated:
George Jones By Jennifer Thomas George Jones By Jennifer Thomas
Westward Tavern - July 18, 1978 By Catherine Holland Westward Tavern - July 18, 1978 By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Police have made an arrest in a murder that happened at a Phoenix bar more than three decades ago.

Police say George Jones, now 53, has admitted his involvement in the killing and is now facing a charge of first-degree murder.

Jones was 21 years old on July 18, 1978, when he and two other men walked into the Westward Tavern on Buckeye Road west of 27th Avenue with the intention of robbing the place.

The armed trio forced customers and employees to the ground at gunpoint. One of those patrons was Duane "Bud" Gruette, a disabled veteran.

According to Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department, Gruette, 45, was assaulted and eventually shot and killed.

Investigators worked the case, but the trail went cold.

Earlier this year, Detective J.J. Alberta and Sgt. Troy Hillman, both of Phoenix P.D.'s Cold Case Unit, began looking at unsolved homicides from the '70s. As they re-evaluated a piece of evidence, they were able to forensically link Jones to the death of Gruette.

Jones was already in jail in Yuma after being arrested on charges unrelated to Gruette's death in 2008.

According to Martos, Jones admitted his involvement in the 1978 shooting to Alberta and has been booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on one count of first-degree murder.

"Regardless of the time it takes in some cases, the Phoenix Police Department is committed to ensuring victims and their families obtain justice," Martos said in an email to the media.