AVONDALE (3TV/CBS 5) – Months after an Arizona man was shot to death while riding his bike home from work, police have made an arrest in the case and they have data from Google to thank for it.
Officers arrested Jorge Luis Molina, 23, last week.
The shooting happened just after midnight on Wednesday, March 14. While it was recorded on surveillance video, that video was not clear enough for police to put together a description of the suspect or get a license plate from the suspect’s vehicle. All investigators knew for sure was that a man was dead and nine shots had been fired from the driver’s side of a white 2000’s model Honda Civic with a sunroof. Based on the video, that Civic followed the victim to his apartment near Lower Buckeye and Litchfield roads.
Officers on the scene recovered three spent shell cases, but there was no sign of the other six or the weapon that fired them.
Looking into the victim’s life got detectives nowhere.
“Follow up was conducted with the victim's ex-girlfriend, family, coworkers, and friends; however, no motive for the shooting was discovered,” according to Molina’s public court documents. “The victim did not appear to be involved in drug use or gang activity. The victim worked swing-shift at a nearby airport and rode his bicycle to save money. The victim lived alone and played online video games and had two pets that he cared for. The victim did not have any outstanding financial debts and kept a clean and organized residence.”
More than two weeks went by and investigators still had no answers.
Detective got a search warrant requesting information from Google regarding “any wireless communication devices that passed through the same geographical locations as the suspect vehicle did while depicted in video footage that captured the suspect vehicle driving through the area on the night of the murder.”
Google got back to the Avondale Police Department on Oct. 2 with four hits.
Detectives compared the GPS data to the timeline they had created based on the surveillance from that March morning.
One of the devices “closely matched the movement of the suspect vehicle,” reads the probable cause for arrest statement. More digging revealed that the device in question belonged to Molina, who lives about 2 miles from the murder scene.
Police learned that not only does Molina drive a white 2009 Honda Civic with a sunroof, but there was also an interesting search history on the phone identified as his. According to court documents, there was a search for “shootings in Avondale AZ last night” done the night of March 14, hours after the murder. Additional searches for “sniper I17” and “Phoenix shooter today” were made the next day.
According to police, Molina admitted that the Civic and the phone were his. He also admitted using drugs; officers found “a usable amount of marijuana and a glass pipe,” while executing a search warrant on his home and car.
“Jorge denied any knowledge of the shooting or murder claiming that he could never do that,” reads the probable casue statement. “When confronted with the fact that police had identified his vehicle at the scene of the crime, his cell phone in the area of the crime, his GPS location through Google services at the scene of the crime, and his bank card used by him shortly before and after the time crime, Jorge could not provide an explanation for these things.”
Police said Molina then requested a lawyer, ending their interview.
While they still do not have a motive for the murder, investigators are recommending the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office file a charge of first-degree murder against Molina, as well as weapons and drug charges.
March 14, 2018 -- Man shot to death outside Avondale apartment complex
March 30, 2018 -- APD requests information from Google
Oct. 2, 2018 -- APD receives information from Google
Dec. 13, 2018 -- Police arrest Jorge Luis Molina