Sgt. Warren Meeler of the Homicide Division successfully nominated three officers for HPOU’s Investigator of the Month honor in HPOU’s January general membership meeting.
Meeler presented the award to Officer Jennifer Medel of the Robbery Division and Sgt. Myron Dillingham and Senior Police Officer J. P. Villareal, both from Homicide. Investigative work by these three resulted in capital murder charges being filed against two suspects.
Sgt. Meeler presented the following synopsis:
Last Dec. 14 Angelina Romero-Alvarez, a 50-year-old grandmother, was robbed and murdered in the parking lot of her apartment complex. Meeler and Villareal got the assignment from Homicide. Sgt. Dillingham and Officer Medel also became part of the investigative team.
Medel had been investigating a series of aggravated robbery shootings where the mostly Hispanic female victims were targeted in apartment complex parking lots in the same way Romero-Alvarez was. Medel helped identify Reginald Plair as a suspect in the serial robbery investigation.
Medel alerted the Homicide officers about the similarities in these cases, especially the fact that ammunition from the same caliber weapon was used in each of the crimes in the pattern. “Officer Medel provided video from the final reported robbery scene which identified the suspect vehicle as a Dodge Journey, and this vehicle was captured on video leaving our murder scene,” Meeler explained. “Finally, Officer Medel and her partner were able to file robbery charges on Plair in one of the robberies, giving us the chance to interview him.”
Medel’s investigation found that this suspect was connected to at least 13 reported aggravated robberies and provided more details after interviewing other witnesses.
Meeler described Sgt. Dillingham as having “unparalleled interviewing skills.” Meeler interviewed Plair for four hours and got nothing but denials.
“Despite being on weekend duty, Sgt. Dillingham came in on his regular day off and spent more than six hours in the room with Plair, chipping away at his lies,” Meeler explained.
Dillingham finally persuaded Plair to lead the investigators to the murder weapon, which was recovered from the suspect’s bedroom, thus implicating the weapon in multiple shootings.
Villareal’s investigative efforts led to charges against the second suspect, Laquinta Dewayne Powell. An anonymous Crime Stoppers tip named Powell after deep frustrations experienced by Villareal and the other investigators.
“Investigator Villareal diligently researched Powell and found a connection between him and the Dodge Journey,” Meeler said. “He was able to learn that Powell rented the vehicle hours before the robbery spree began on Dec. 5. Powell and Plair also linked together through phone records.
The expert investigative efforts by this sergeant and two officers resulted in the capital murder charges, Meeler said.