Francisco Carbajal busted in cold-case strangulation of Julia Abarca

Categories: Colorado Crimes

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Big photos and more below.
We've grown accustomed to hearing about cold cases that heat up due to DNA hits, such as the arrest and April sentencing of Dominique Huntington for a 2008 double rape. But such evidence isn't always the key.

Take the case of Francisco Rojas Carbajal, who reportedly confessed to strangling Julia Abarca in Edgewater on or near Christmas 2010 after an identity theft investigation made more challenging by multiple aliases. Photos and details below.

An online memorial about Abarca notes that she was born in Idaho circa 1969 and lived in that state and Utah before moving to Edgewater. A member of the Pentecostal church, she's said to have loved photography, dancing, cooking, spending time with kids, and traveling to visit friends and family. "Julia was always putting others before herself," the remembrance notes -- which only makes the circumstances of her death that much more tragic.

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Another photo accompanying Julia Abarca's memorial page.
What happened? On January 2, according to Carbajal's arrest affidavit, on view below, Edgewater police were called to Abarca's apartment, on the 2600 block of Kendall Street. They found Abarca's body inside, and she'd been there a while: The coroner estimated that she died on either Christmas or December 26. She last spoke with her family at around 11 p.m. on December 24.

Cause of death: asphyxiation caused by strangulation.

Among the clues found during a search of the apartment was a receipt from Academy Bank dated December 3. But investigators soon discovered that the account remained active even after Abarca's death, with 33 separate transactions taking place between December 25 and January 3. Businesses included various restaurants and liquor stores; the amount of money involved exceeded $1,500.

Meanwhile, Abarca was identified as a suspect in a past disturbance at a different eatery: El Jaliscience II Mexican Restraurant on West Alameda. The owners told detectives that a man known as Francisco Rojas had quit his job at the establishment -- but then, the previous October or November, he'd come in alongside Abarca, with the two of them demanding that he be rehired. When the owners declined to do so, Abarca allegedly responded with verbal harassment and threats that prompted them to report the incident to the Lakewood Police Department.

Turns out Abarca had used a false Social Security number when he'd applied for his job at the restaurant -- but he'd listed his address as Abarca's apartment.

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Julia Abarca, right, with a loved one.
Over the weeks and months that followed, investigators tried to tie the man they knew as Rojas to the draining of Abarca's bank account, as well as to names that included "Juan Rivas" and "Juan Rivas-Garcia" -- and by August 2011, enough evidence was in place to obtain an arrest warrant for him. But his whereabouts were unknown.

Then, on June 30 of this year, a break.

Continue for more about the arrest of Francisco Carbajal, including another photo and the affidavit.


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