Man arrested in 1978 homicide at Phoenix tavern

PHOENIX - After 33 years, Phoenix police said a murder case gone cold is now almost solved.

Officers have arrested one of three men allegedly involved in the 1978 murder of then 45-year-old Duane Gruette.

"I lost hope, I really did," said Jeff Gruette, one of Duane Gruette's sons.

Gruette said his father enjoyed going out for a beer when he was shot and killed at the Westward Tavern on Buckeye Road in Phoenix.

Police said three men entered the Tavern after midnight on July 18th to rob it.

"It was a takedown robbery," said Sgt. Steve Martos with the Phoenix Police Department. "They were armed and had all the patrons of this establishment get on the ground."

But Gruette, a disabled Vietnam veteran couldn't get down fast enough and Martos said the three men began to beat him. "One of the suspects retrieved a hand gun and shot and killed him," said Martos.

Jeff Gruette still remembers that night. "I couldn't sleep and there was a knock on the door and when I answered the door it was my little brother standing there crying and he said that father was dead. The whole time I'm thinking, 'No that's not my dad, that's not my dad'."

Detectives said they were assigned to re-examine cold cases when lab technicians were able to forensically match 53-year-old George Jones to the murder."

According to police, George Jones was serving time in a Yuma jail for unrelated drug charges.

"It's exciting to be able to call the family and say we're making progress and, in this case, we've made a lot of progress," said Detective J.J. Alberta.

Albertasaid Jones didn't have much of a reaction to his arrest on the murder of Duane Gruette, "He was cooperative, he was somewhat subdued to the whole situation."

Jones has admitted to being involved in crime and is now charged with suspicion of first degree murder.

Jeff Gruette said he couldn't believe it when detectives called to say they made an arrest, "It was like someone had taken a big weight off my shoulders. I wasn't there to tell my big brother Jerry, but I called my little brother and said we finally got one of them."

Gruette said he plans to be in court every day of the trial in memory of his father.

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