Marcello Maldonado-Perez busted after DNA warms up 32-year-old cold case

More evidence that the three most important letters in cold cases these days are DNA -- the apparent solving of a Weld County murder dating back to 1977.

In August of that year, Mary Pierce, 22, was abducted, raped and murdered in Greeley. More than a quarter-century later, DNA evidence was submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and earlier this year, the CBI registered a hit with Marcello Maldonado-Perez, 51, who was chilling in Port Charlotte, Florida yesterday when the cops came knocking at his door with a reminder of a vile deed past.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey is trying to take DNA testing to the next level via an approach that looks for family connections -- but the current method's pretty damn effective. Get more details below:

Weld County Sheriff's Office release:

Greeley, Colo. -- On December 1, 2009, Marcello Maldonado-Perez was arrested in Port Charlotte, Florida in the 1977 murder of Mary Pierce.

On August 25, 1977, 22 year old Mary Pierce was kidnapped from a 7-11 convenience store in 1100 block of 9th Street in Greeley where she worked as a store clerk. Mary Pierce's body was found two days later in a cornfield west of Greeley; what is now the 8300 block of 10th Street. The autopsy revealed she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times.

Officers from both the Greeley Police Department and the Weld County Sheriff's Office investigated the homicide for several years before the case was officially turned over to the Sheriff's Office. In 2003 and 2006 Weld County Investigators submitted evidence collected from the 1977 crime to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for DNA testing. The DNA originally was recovered from the body and clothing of Ms. Pierce.

The results from the DNA testing were provided to the Weld County Sheriff's Office and placed into a nationwide database. In 2009 CBI received notification that a match from the database had been developed. The DNA from the crime scene matched DNA samples taken from 51 year old Marcello Maldonado-Perez of Port Charlotte, Florida. Maldonado-Perez had been serving time in a Texas prison and prior to his release in 2008 DNA samples were obtained and submitted to the national database.

In July 2009, the WCSO fugitive unit and the US Marshals Service located Maldonado-Perez living in Port Charlotte, Florida. On November 30, 2009, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Maldonado-Perez on charges of first degree murder.

Deputies from the Weld County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force comprised of US Marshals Service, Florida Department of Law, and Charlotte County Sheriff's Office arrested Maldonado-Perez on December 1, 2009 at 7:58 a.m. at his residence in Port Charlotte, Florida. He is being held in the Charlotte County Jail without bond.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts