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Local man arrested in 1981 murder

A homeless Medford-area man is facing extradition to Arizona on charges that he robbed and murdered a motorist there in 1981.

A recent latent fingerprint led northern Arizona cold-case detectives Thursday to a Medford homeless shelter, where police found 73-year-old Robert Rodriquez Resendez — who was never on investigators' radar screen as a suspect in the 33 years since the murder, according to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office.

Resendez was arraigned on the fugitive warrant Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court. He has been held in the Jackson County Jail on $500,000 bail and was given a week to look into extradition proceedings, court records show.

Resendez is accused of robbing and fatally shooting 51-year-old Jerry Arnold Heath in 1981 outside of Flagstaff.

Authorities say the vehicle Heath was driving from Texas to his home in Lompoc, Calif., was found abandoned along Interstate 10 in Yuma County on Aug. 26, 1981.

Investigators say Heath's remains were discovered in some brush off Interstate 40 a month later. They say he appeared to have died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Heath worked as an engineer for defense contractors, and he was on a cross-country trip home from Texas. He was known to pick up hitchhikers on long trips to help in driving, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

The sheriff's department's cold case unit recently reviewed the case and sent evidence — including a latent print found on a beer can in Heath's vehicle — to the FBI for further analysis. The FBI's print-enhancement capabilities matched the print to Resendez, who was never previously part of the investigation, according to the Daily Sun.

During an interview with detectives in Medford, Resendez reportedly made statements implicating himself in the crime and he was arrested Thursday, according to the Daily Sun.

It was unclear how long Resendez had been in Medford or Oregon. Court records show Resendez has no criminal history under that name in Jackson County.

Local man arrested in 1981 murder