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Thu, Sept. 19

Murder trial of 1997 cold case moves to Prescott

Marisol Gonzalez

Marisol Gonzalez

PRESCOTT- A murder case will move from the Verde Valley to Prescott, as a man accused of a 17-year-old Cottonwood killing will get a new judge here.

Cecilio Cruz has long been a suspect in the 1997 murder of Marisol Gonzalez and her unborn son, but police said they could not make the case strong enough for trial.

Cruz and Gonzalez were both 17 when she was killed. Today, he is 34.

Cottonwood Police Det. Tod Moore, who has been working on the case since 2006, credits the TNT crime program "Cold Justice" with moving the case forward. The TV show brings together Kelly Siegler, a 21-year veteran Texas prosecutor who has tried and won 68 murder cases, and Yolanda McClary, a former crime scene investigator who worked more than 7,000 cases in her 26 years at the Las Vegas Metro Police, along with the manpower to go back through reams of investigative documents and evidence, answering unresolved questions.

The "Cold Justice" episode was titled "First Love." It aired in February.

Moore said the two had been dating, and Gonzalez found out she was pregnant with Cruz's child after they broke up. Her body was discovered in an alley near her home on March 25, 1997, the same day she was set to have labor induced to deliver her baby boy. She had been shot in the face. Police have alleged that Cruz spoke with Gonzalez by phone the previous night.

Cruz was indicted in September on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Gonzalez and a manslaughter charge for the death of her unborn son.

Police arrested him at work on September 16. He was working as a family life counselor for a Tucson funeral home and was contacted at the cemetery. Armed with an arrest warrant, Cottonwood Police took him into custody without a struggle.

Cruz was jailed and held in Tucson on a $100,000 bond, but then, a Pima County judge reduced the bond to $10,000 without a hearing. Cruz paid it, and was released.

On Sept. 26, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff said, "I don't know how (the bond) got changed or why. But there was no hearing that the victims were notified of the release conditions."

Bluff restored the bond to $100,000 and Cruz was taken back into custody.

Yavapai County Public Defender John Napper is representing Cruz.

Napper asked for a change of judge, which is allowed by right. Because there are only two judges hearing criminal cases in the Verde Valley, Bluff and Joe Butner, who has recused himself over a conflict, Presiding Judge David L. Mackey had to assign it to a Prescott-based judge.

The case will now be heard by Judge Jennifer Campbell in Prescott's Division 2.

No timetable for Cruz's next court appearance has been announced yet.

Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy.

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