Oregon man arrested for 1981 murder in Arizona - CBS 5 - KPHO

Oregon man arrested for 1981 murder in Arizona

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Robert Resendez (Courtesy: KTVL) Robert Resendez (Courtesy: KTVL)
Jerry Heath (Courtesy: Coconino County Sheriff's Office) Jerry Heath (Courtesy: Coconino County Sheriff's Office)
Heath's Land Cruiser (Courtesy: Coconino County Sheriff's Office) Heath's Land Cruiser (Courtesy: Coconino County Sheriff's Office)
1981 Suspect sketch (Courtesy: Coconino County Sheriff's Office) 1981 Suspect sketch (Courtesy: Coconino County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

Volunteer detectives have arrested an Oregon man for the decades-old murder of a man in northern Arizona.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office said Saturday that Robert Rodriquez Resendez, 73, will be extradited in Medford, OR.

Sheriff's Office spokesperson Gerry Blair said Resendez is accused of robbing and fatally shooting 51-year-old Jerry Arnold Heath in 1981 outside of Flagstaff.

"We believe that he was picked up as a hitchhiker and then possibly somewhere down the road, a robbery occurred," Blair said. "Mr. Heath was shot to death."

Authorities say the 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser Heath was driving from Texas to his home in Lompoc, CA, was found abandoned along Interstate 10 in Yuma County on Aug. 26, 1981.

Investigators say campers discovered Heath's remains in some brush off Interstate 40 a month later. 

"One of the 16-year-olds walked off into the brush and found the badly decaying body of Mr. Heath," Blair said.

Detectives said he appeared to have died from a gunshot wound to the head.

After 30 years of going untouched, a retired criminal investigator with the National Parks Service picked up the case as a volunteer detective for the Coconino County Sheriff's Office.

Volunteer cold-case detectives resubmitted fingerprints collected from Heath's Land Cruiser. The prints found a match to Resendez in an FBI database.

"If they weren't there volunteering their expertise and their time, there's no one that would go back through those hundreds of binders of reports and hundreds of items of evidence," Blair said. "A lot of these cases would go unsolved."

Investigators say Resendez gave statements that implicated himself in the crime. Authorities arrested Resendez on Thursday.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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