Analysis complete for Phoenix murder weapon, freeway shootings fragments

Posted at 5:53 AM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 12:20:45-04

Officials have completed testing for the weapon used in a 2015 murder to see if there was any connection to the Phoenix freeway shootings.

Sources tell ABC15’s Christopher Sign, the ballistics analysis between the 2015 murder weapon and freeway shootings bullet fragments came back as “inconclusive”.

The gun in question, a 9mm, was actually in the hands of Arizona Department of Public Safety detectives during the freeway shootings investigation, but the gun was never fully analyzed before it was returned to a pawn shop.

Phoenix detectives eventually recovered the same weapon and analyzed it, which led to the arrest of Aaron Saucedo in connection with a 2015 murder.

Phoenix Police Department detectives then requested all of the freeway shootings ballistic evidence be tested to determine if the same weapon could have been used in that series of crimes.

DPS handed over the evidence to Phoenix police for analysis.

The inconclusive result could lead to more questions in the freeway shootings investigation.


Is Leslie Merritt still the freeway shootings suspect?


The only person ever charged in the freeway shootings investigation, Leslie Merritt Jr., was released from jail and the charges against him were dropped.

The case against Merritt was dismissed after an independent expert hired by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office analyzed Merritt’s gun with the evidence in the case and stated the results were inconclusive.

Even though Merritt is out of jail, DPS still believes he is the main suspect in the investigation. DPS Col. Frank Milstead even went as far to say, "I believe we have enough evidence to develop probable cause to believe that [Leslie Merritt Jr.] is the correct suspect."

DPS had further testing conducted on Merritt’s gun and the freeway shootings ballistic evidence with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF’s results were inconclusive.

DPS recently confirmed to ABC15 that they have "no new information" about the freeway shootings; but clarified that Merritt is still a suspect and they have no other suspects at this time.

Merritt's attorney, Jason Lamm, told ABC15, the findings of the Phoenix Police Crime Lab is further evidence that DPS' opinions about Leslie Merritt's gun are wrong.


Could Saucedo be the so-called freeway shooter?

Analysis conducted on guns owned by Merritt and Saucedo came back as inconclusive when compared to bullet fragments from the freeway shootings case. 

The result could simply be interpreted that the guns cannot be ruled in or out as possible matches.

So far, a perfect match appears to elude investigators, or at least a match everyone from detectives to experts to prosecutors can agree on.

So could Saucedo be the so-called freeway shooter? Prior to the Phoenix Police Department testing, DPS told ABC15 they did not believe Saucedo was the freeway shooter.

But the recent testing conducted by Phoenix Police Department detectives leads to more questions. Could Saucedo be connected to the freeway shooter case? Have detectives looked at Saucedo’s movements, including cell phone tracking, to determine if he was near the string of freeway shootings in 2015?

ABC15 reached out to Phoenix police and Gov. Doug Ducey's office for a comment on the latest findings. Phoenix police did not release a statement. A spokesperson for Gov. Ducey said, "we’re going to let law enforcement do their jobs and wait for all the facts."

Keep in mind, amid the murder arrest and possible connection to the freeway shootings, sources tell ABC15’s Christopher Sign that Saucedo is also a person of interest in the "Serial Street Shooter" crimes dating back to 2016 which includes seven homicides.

Stay with ABC15 and for further updates.