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Cold case starts to thaw

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

The murder of traveling computer technician Francisco Narvaez grew cold as ice for 31 years, but now has warmed up.

Denton police officers have arrested 53-year-old Robert Otteson in connection with the Sept. 30, 1983, murder in a Denton motel room.

Otteson is a resident of Lakeville, Minnesota, with a wife and children.

He was taken into custody Tuesday by the Lakeville Police Department and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officers. Investigators from the Denton Police Department were present for the arrest along with a Texas Ranger from the Department of Public Safety.

Otteson was sitting Wednesday in a Dakota County, Minnesota, jail on charges of being a fugitive and second degree murder.

Narvaez was murdered in Room 241 of the old Holiday Inn at 1500 Dallas Drive. Denton detectives investigated the death at the time, but eventually tips and leads dried up.

Interest in the decades-old cold case resurfaced in 2011, when Denton authorities sought help from the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation, according to The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City. Investigators said the case hit a dead end when a pair of DNA samples extracted from the crime scene didn’t turn up any matches.

A search of the suspect’s Minnesota home last winter led to a break in the case. A shirt recently worn by the suspect was found in the garbage, and DNA from the shirt matched DNA taken from the crime scene, connecting him to Narvaez’s murder, a source told KMSP-TV, a Fox affiliate in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Police did not say what led them to focus on Otteson in the first place, and they offered no theory as to why he might have killed Narvaez.

When asked about the shirt, Denton police spokesman Officer Ryan Grelle had no comment.

Early in the investigation, several witnesses reported seeing Narvaez drinking coffee with another man in the hotel restaurant the day before his body was discovered. Those witnesses provided enough details to develop a sketch of the suspect’s face.

Hours after the victim’s body was discovered, Oklahoma City police found Narvaez’s 1983 Oldsmobile. Someone had driven it from Denton to Oklahoma.

The murder weapon, suspected to be a 2 1/2- to 3-inch knife, was never found.

Doug Kling was a college student in the summer of 1983. He and another student worked with Narvaez at Addison-based Capricorn Services Inc., a consulting firm that helped credit unions convert their records from paper to computer files.

They traveled together throughout East and North Texas. Those trips could last a week to 10 days, he said.

Kling recalled that the three-member team would have dinner together after work. Then, he and his college buddy would go their way and the older Narvaez went his way. Narvaez lived in San Antonio with a wife and two children, Kling remembered.

“He was the leader of our group,” said Kling, who now lives in Denver. “He had a good personality and was like the customer relations guy. He was an ejoyable fellow, and I never had any issues with him.”

Kling reached back in his memory to recall the day he heard Narvaez had been found murdered in the Denton motel room.

“We were dumbfounded by it,” he said. “We had no idea why it had happened.”

Grelle said the case was submitted to a grand jury by the Denton County District Attorney’s Office last Thursday, with a warrant issued Friday.

Grelle said the suspect and law enforcement officials are still in Minnesota.

“They are waiting for extradition to come back to Texas and continue on the investigation down here and a trial possibly,” he said.

Managing Editor Scott K. Parks contributed to this report.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.