- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The trial of a man accused of a decades-old murder of a man in Northern Arizona has begun.

Robert Resendez is charged with second-degree murder in the 1981 death of 51-year-old California engineer Jerry Heath, The Arizona Daily Sun reports (https://bit.ly/1PxLtFW ). Testimony began Wednesday in Coconino County Superior Court.

“We know Robert Resendez shot Jerry Heath because he said so,” said prosecutor Jonathan Apirion during opening statements.

Resendez is accused of shooting Heath, dumping his body near Flagstaff and taking his vehicle. Apirion said the man confessed to killing Heath during police questioning in February 2014.

Resendez’s public defender Charles Doughty said false confessions are not uncommon with hungry, homeless men, and implied Resendez may suffer from mental illness.

According to court documents, the vehicle Heath was driving from Texas to his home in Lompoc, California, was found abandoned along Interstate 10 in Yuma County on Aug. 26, 1981. Heath’s remains were discovered in some brush off Interstate 40 a month later. He appeared to die from a gunshot wound to the head.

The case of Heath’s death went cold for 32 years before the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office submitted the fingerprints originally collected from the scene to the FBI. Some of the prints were linked to Resendez.

“All that any of that shows is that, at some point 34 years ago, Robert was in Jerry Heath’s Land Cruiser,” Doughty said. “There is no other physical evidence connecting Robert to Jerry’s death.”

Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday and the trial is expected to last until Nov. 18.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, https://www.azdailysun.com/

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