AUSTIN, Texas — The East Austin home where Gloria Lofton lost her life has been replaced, but her memory remains on Sara Drive.
"She was a good lady, and she will watch out for the neighborhood," Sergio Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez had lived across the street from Lofton from the age of 10, up until her death.
"I used to live with her before, too, to help out, pay bills and everything," Rodriguez said.
She helped him out, too, after Rodriguez's mom was murdered when he was only a child. He said she was a mother figure to him.
"She was like a gangster mom," Rodriguez said. "She [would] always tells me, 'Stay in school, keep yourself straight,' you know. And I got a good job and everything because of her."
This was all while Lofton had her own children.
Rodriguez said Lofton was sickly around the time of her death and, at one point, had cancer.
"I thought it was a natural cause," Rodriguez said.
That's because a medical examiner labeled Lofton's death "undetermined" despite her being found with a strangulation mark on her neck and her shirt pulled above her head.
"The system is not right," Rodriguez said. "Why did they let the guy go early when he killed another person before?"
On Tuesday, May 30, Austin police and the U.S. Marshals announced suspected serial killer Raul Meza Jr. had been arrested. They said he called and confessed to murdering 65-year-old Lofton in her home in May 2019, along with three other murders.
"Emotionally, I was sad, but physically I'm pissed off about what happened to her," Rodriguez said.
According to the arrest affidavit, Meza lived next door to Lofton in what Rodriguez said was a halfway house.
"It used to be, like, crazy people there," Rodriguez said. "I saw him before, but I never paid attention."
Documents showed that in 2020, authorities learned Meza's DNA matched what was found in Lofton's rape kit.
As investigators work to finally bring justice, Rodriguez is holding on to the good times.
"I mean, sometime I'd barbecue or drink a couple of beers, and she would smoke her cigarettes," Rodriguez said.