AUSTIN, Texas — The new year 1982 was just a few days old when police discovered the body of a young girl in a dumpster. She has been sexually assaulted and murdered, ambushed while riding her bicycle on an elementary school playground. She was third-grader Kendra Page.
Her death set Austin on edge. Parents stopped letting their kids walk to school, and large crowds gathered at neighborhood meetings to find ways to keep kids safe.
Then, just a few days after police found Kendra’s body, 21-year-old Raul Meza Jr. went to the Austin Police Department's headquarters to turn himself in. He confessed to Page's murder.
To avoid a trial and possible death sentence, Meza’s attorneys and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office struck a deal – Meza would serve a 30-year prison sentence.
But nearly 12 years later, in 1993, he was released from prison early, earning credit for good behavior, though it would be a supervised release.
While on parole, he was transferred to a halfway house near El Paso, where protests prompted officials to move him. Similar protests led to transfers from nearly a dozen other cities. It was clear that no one wanted Meza for a neighbor.
Because of their concerns, Meza took the unusual step of calling a news conference to say that he had changed while in prison.
“There’s nothing I can do to change my past,” Meza told reporters. “I can only tell you that in my heart, I know that I will not willfully bring harm to anyone again.”
But Meza was sent to prison again in 1994 for violating a midnight curfew. He was released in 2002.
During the 20 years since that prison release, law officers have been looking closely at other, more recent crimes that Meza committed – crimes that have him back in custody once again.