Convicted murderer charged in two new Texas killings offers to return to prison in plea

Victims’ family members urging prosecutors to reject plea from Raul Meza Jr.

This booking photo provided by the Austin, Texas, Police Department shows Raul Meza Jr. The convicted murderer released from a Texas prison in 1993 and now facing two new murder charges, offered a plea deal Thursday, April 11, 2024 of 50 years back in prison to avoid a new trial and the possibility of the death penalty. (Austin Police Department via AP) (Uncredited)

AUSTIN, Texas – A convicted murderer who was released early from a Texas prison in 1993 and now faces two new murder charges offered Thursday to enter a plea and return to prison for 50 years in exchange for avoiding going to trial and facing a possible death sentence — an offer that victims' families urged prosecutors to reject.

Raul Meza Jr., 63, served about a decade in prison for killing an 8-year-old girl before he was released. He was charged last year with two other killings that happened in 2019 and 2023, and investigators have said they are looking into as many as a 10 other unsolved cases that they think might be connected to Meza.

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During a pretrial hearing Thursday, Travis County prosecutors said they had just received the plea offer from Meza's attorney and hadn't had time yet to evaluate it. Meza's lawyer, Russ Hunt, said the number of years in prison was the only term offered, and that there had been no discussion yet whether a deal would require Meza to plead guilty or no contest to the murder charges.

After the hearing, victims' family members speaking to reporters urged prosecutors to reject the offer.

Meza's original 1982 conviction and 30-year prison sentence were the result of a plea deal. He was released early after receiving credit for good time.

“It just brought me back to what my parents had to go through when we were children,” said Tracy Page, whose sister Kendra Page was strangled and sexually assaulted by Meza in 1982. “It's like he's dictating what he wants. ... To me, in my heart, I want (him) to go to the death penalty.”

Hunt said the offer of 50 years on each murder charge, to be served concurrently, would effectively mean he'd be in prison for life. By law, Meza would be eligible for parole in 30 years, at age 93.

“Mr. Meza would like to avoid a trial and all the trouble and emotional turmoil it brings to everyone involved in the case, including the families of the victims," Hunt said.

Meza's early release from prison in 1993 caused an uproar throughout Texas and he was met by protesters at nearly every turn. Picketers drove him out of six cities, sometimes with threats of violence.

“In my heart, I know that I will not willfully bring harm to anyone,″ Meza said during an August 1993 news conference after he had been driven out of communities.

Austin police said Meza called them last May and confessed to killing his 80-year-old roommate, Jesse Fraga, days earlier, and implicated himself in the 2019 sexual assault and killing of Gloria Lofton. Meza was carrying a backpack containing zip ties, a flashlight, duct tape and a .22 caliber pistol with extra rounds when he was arrested, police said.

Meza has been charged with capital murder in Lofton's killing, which could result in him being sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole if he's convicted. He was indicted on a murder charge in Fraga's death, which could result in a life term.

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