For 45 years, Officer Matt Murphy’s case was cold, but not closed.
However, a Jim Wells County grand jury indicted Roberto Lopez on capital murder charges in Murphy’s death. Lopez is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in Alabama for armed robbery.
The indictment is 45 years in the making, and police and prosecutors hope it brings closure.
“This is a crime that hit our community back in the 70’s and it’s never gone away,” said Carlos Garcia, District Attorney for the 79th Judicial District.
In the nearly 45 years since Murphy was killed during a traffic stop in the early morning hours of December 1st, 1974; investigators from several agencies worked countless hours trying to find his killer.
“We just followed up on the information that we had,” said Aniceto Perez, Alice Interim Police Chief. “Throughout the investigation we interviewed several people, we interviewed hundreds.”
The investigation picked up speed again in January of 2017 when a tip from a jail house informant implicated Lopez. He had been on investigators’ radar the entire time.
“He’s been a suspect, actually from the get-go,” said Perez.
The new information was enough to build a grand jury case. On May 10th, Lopez was indicted for Murphy’s murder. The next step is extraditing Lopez to Texas from Alabama.
“There’s a lot of red tape that has to go through two different states, Texas and Alabama, in working out extradition, working out working out what the next steps would be after that,” said Garcia.
The Alice Police Department has mourned Murphy for more than four decades. While officers are happy to have an indictment, they say they won’t be satisfied until there’s a conviction.
“It’s still not over, to me it’s only just begun,” said Perez. “Now we’re going to prove this, try to prove this.”
Members of Murphy’s family were present for Tuesday’s announcement. They declined to comment, but Perez says he’s spoken with them, and they are happy to see an indictment.
Although Lopez has been charged with capital murder, prosecutors haven’t decided yet whether they’ll seek the death penalty. For now, they’ll focus on the extradition process, which could take anywhere from 30 days to several months.