Cold Case Explorations

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An Unsolved Murder Caught on Ring Cam

This case has remained unsolved for 4 years, 10 months, and 13 days.

January 25, 2019 should’ve been a day like any other for Liz Barraza. She and her husband, Sergio, were planning a trip to Florida and were to leave in a few days’ time. In order to get some extra spending money for souvenirs on the trip, they planned a garage sale, selling off things they didn’t need for a bit of cash.

But on the morning of the garage sale, things went awry. Liz and Sergio set up the sale early that morning. Sergio left for work, and within a few minutes, someone pulled up to the sale. Instead of purchasing any items, they walked up to Liz, shot her four times, and then fled the scene. The whole incident was caught on a neighbor’s Ring doorbell camera.

Despite the crime being caught on tape, no arrests have been made, and there has been no justice for Liz. Who murdered Liz Barraza? And why?

Table of Contents

About Elizabeth “Liz” Barraza

Elizabeth “Liz” Marie Nuelle (later Elizabeth Barraza) was born on June 26, 1989 to parents Robert and Rosemary Nuelle. Liz grew up loving the Harry Potter franchise, including the books, audio books, and movies. A childhood friend said of Liz, “She was just amazing, just selfless. She loved everyone.” 

A photograph of Liz Barraza.
A photograph of Liz Barraza (GoFundMe).

After graduating from Klein Collins High School in 2008, Liz went on to finish her studies at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Huntsville, Texas (TX). It was at SHSU that she met her eventual husband, Sergio Barraza. The couple married in 2014.

Interests and Volunteer Work

Liz and Sergio enjoyed attending renaissance festivals dressed in the costumes they’d made for themselves. The couple was also involved with the 501st Legion, a worldwide Star Wars cosplay organization run by fans. Members of the 501st Legion aim to bring fans together, facilitate the use of costumes, and contribute to the local communities they live in by fundraising, doing charity work, and volunteering.

Liz and Sergio Barraza.
Liz and Sergio Barraza (ABC 13).

Liz was amazing. She was so fun to be with, so just, genuine and happy. It was amazing being with her and it was like a fairytale,” said Sergio of his late wife. A neighbor said of the couple, “They’re outgoing and friendly and they were helpful when I needed it.” And Liz’s best friend explained, “She was extremely thoughtful and she was very, very giving.”

Indeed, it didn’t seem like anyone would have a reason for wanting to hurt Liz. And yet, on January 25, 2019, that’s exactly what happened in a case that remains unsolved to this day.

The Days Leading up to the Murder

In 2019, Liz and Sergio were planning on a trip to Florida to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Their plans included leaving on January 27, 2019 to visit both Universal Studios and Disney World, a long trip from their home in Tomball, TX. 

The couple hoped to sell off some unwanted goods in order to have more money to spend on souvenirs for their upcoming trip to Florida. The sale was not advertised on social media (this becomes relevant later).

The night before the garage sale was January 24, and Liz and Sergio went around their neighborhood putting up signs to advertise. Although Sergio had work the next morning, he still planned on helping Liz set items out before he headed out. 

Liz Barraza in her Star Wars costume.
Liz Barraza in her Star Wars costume (People).

The Morning of the Garage Sale

The morning of January 25 started off well enough. Liz can be seen leaving her house at 6:08 AM to pick up a coffee at a nearby Starbucks, returning at around 6:16 AM. After that, Liz and Sergio set out the items for the garage sale, taking around 30 minutes to do so. At 6:48 AM, Sergio left the couple’s home to head to work. 

A Black Nissan Frontier

At 6:51 AM, a truck is seen heading toward the Barraza home. This is just three minutes after Sergio left for work. The truck pulled up, ostensibly to check out and perhaps purchase some items at the garage sale. However, the person who walked up to Liz was reportedly wearing some sort of a disguise — no doubt a strange sight for an early morning garage sale shopper. 

The assailant and Liz shared a few words; it’s not clear what was said or if the two knew one another. At 6:52 AM, the assailant fired three shots, then another after Liz fell to the ground with that final shot hitting Liz in the face. Nothing was taken from the scene, suggesting that this was a targeted attack as opposed to a robbery-gone-wrong. The attacker fled the scene, sprinting back to their truck.

A neighbor’s security footage showing the assailant approaching and shooting Liz Barraza.
A neighbor’s security footage showing the assailant approaching and shooting Liz Barraza (KHOU 11).

Neighbors Called 911

Several neighbors heard the gunshots and immediately called 911. Authorities were quick to respond to the scene, arriving just minutes later at 6:58 AM, and discovered Liz shot and bleeding in the driveway. Immediately, they called for a helicopter to take her to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX

The Investigation

While Liz was at the hospital with doctors and nurses doing everything they could to save her, Sergio was detained for questioning after he returned to the home. He told authorities he drove back home because the home security system had been tripped (and it had been by the responding officers at the scene). He was later released after being questioned.

Who Knew About the Garage Sale?

When asked who knew about the garage sale, Sergio told a news outlet, “The only people that I know knew about the garage sale was some of her coworkers, myself, her parents, and I think my mom.” This somewhat narrows down suspects if indeed this was a targeted attack, as authorities suspected. 

Remember that the garage sale was not advertised on social media, so whoever knew that Liz was going to be hosting the garage sale that morning alone after Sergio left for work. Again however, that assumes that the attack was a targeted one as opposed to a random shooting, which it may have been.

Liz Passes Away

Unfortunately, Liz passed away the next day at 1:40 PM on January 26, 2019. In death, she gave others life because she was an organ donor; she was able to save the lives of four other people by donating her heart, liver, and both kidneys. Her corneas were also gifted, granting someone the gift of clear sight.

Neighbor’s Ring Doorbell Cam

Astonishingly, when canvassing the neighborhood, authorities learned that a neighbor’s Ring doorbell camera caught the whole incident on video, including the shooting itself and the shooter’s car. Police were able to determine from the video that the car was a dark-colored Nissan Frontier 4×4 with a PRO-4X sticker.

The car that the shooter was driving from the neighbor’s Ring doorbell camera.
The car that the shooter was driving from the neighbor’s Ring doorbell camera (ABC 13).

The black Nissan Frontier was seen at approximately 2 AM on neighborhood security cameras driving around the area in the hours before Liz was murdered. The car also drove back by the scene after the shooting, perhaps to be sure that Liz was dead. 

The fact that the car had been driving around the neighborhood prior to the garage sale suggested further that the attack on Liz was a targeted on and not a random shooting. 

Type of Gun Released

The type of gun used in Liz’s murder was revealed by authorities to have been a revolver. This likely means that there weren’t any shell casings left at the murder scene (which might’ve been useful to collect for evidence) because revolvers generally don’t eject their casings after firing.

Celebration of Life Held

On February 2, 2019, a week after her death, Liz’s Celebration of Life Ceremony was held. “I had to trade our fifth anniversary for her funeral,” said her husband, Sergio, to a news outlet. Liz’s father described her as a “simple, kind and generous person, happily living an amazing life of service.”

Mourners at a vigil held for Liz Barraza held up lightsabers to honor her love for Star Wars.
Mourners at a vigil held for Liz Barraza held up lightsabers to honor her love for Star Wars (Twitter).

That’s All, Folks!

Unfortunately, that’s as much information as we have about Liz’s murder. The fact that it was caught on a neighbor’s Ring cam is great evidence for the case against the suspect shown; however, there seems to be no other publicly-available evidence aside from the footage. And now, over four years later, there have been no arrests, no suspects named, and no justice for Liz Barraza.

Theories on What Happened

There are a few theories out there when it comes to the murder of Liz Barraza. Unfortunately, aside from the neighbor’s Ring camera video, there doesn’t seem to be much more publicly-available evidence. 

Sergio Had Liz Killed

Many people suspect that Liz’s husband, Sergio, is somehow behind the murder. I tried to find reports of issues in the Barraza marriage — infidelity, financial problems, life insurance polices — but I couldn’t find anything that might give Sergio a motive.

Some point to the fact that Sergio got remarried within two years of Liz’s murder; this short turnaround might’ve been a potential motive. However, from what I can determine, it doesn’t seem that Sergio met his now-wife until many months after Liz’s death. I’m not saying that an affair was impossible, only that there isn’t enough publicly-available evidence to conclusively say that there was an affair going on.

Regardless, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 76% of murdered females are murdered by someone known to them. On top of that, 34% of those murdered females were killed by an intimate partner. So, statistically speaking, it’s possible that Sergio might’ve played a role in the murder, be it a murder-for-hire plot or a jealous extramarital affair partner who wanted to get Liz out of the picture for them to be together. 

A photograph of Liz Barraza with some Harry Potter cards.
A photograph of Liz Barraza with some Harry Potter cards (KHOU 11).

It Was a Random Killing

Some have suggested that the killing was a random shooting, sort of like a gang initiation. Liz’s family, however, doesn’t believe that this was some random killing. Robert Nuelle, her father, told a media outlet, “This was not a robbery. This was not a gang initiation. This was somebody that wanted to kill my daughter, and did it.” 

Additionally, the fact that the Nissan Frontier was seen in the neighborhood around 2 AM on the morning of the murder suggests to authorities that this was a targeted attack and not a gang initiation or some kids making poor choices.

Someone Who Knew Liz Killed Her

Many think that whoever killed Liz would have had to have known her, or at least known her routine. After all, what else would explain the perfect timing of the killer pulling up to the garage sale just three minutes after Sergio left for work that morning? 

Some have suggested that perhaps whoever killed Liz was a jealous lover of either Sergio or Liz. This is possible, although there is no publicly-available evidence currently out there that suggests either were involved in affairs of any kind. 

What Do I Think Happened?

This case is an interesting one because the whole incident was caught on camera and yet no one has been arrested in the years following Liz’s murder. I definitely think that this was a targeted shooting with someone having it out for Liz for one reason or another, but I’m not so sure who had it out for her. 

Shooting Was Likely Targeted

How did they know that [Liz] would be standing in her driveway alone at 6:50 in the morning on January 25th?” Liz’s father, Robert Nuelle, asked during a news report. And I agree whole-heartedly with that sentiment. The garage sale had only been advertised to a few people and in the neighborhood where Liz and Sergio had put up signs. No social media posts were made to advertise the garage sale, so a much smaller pool of people would have known about it.

Additionally, remember that the murderer’s vehicle was seen driving around the neighborhood early that morning. If it was a random shooting, why would this car be seen near the Barraza home? 

Liz Barraza’s parents, Robert and Rosemary Nuelle, talking about their daughter’s case on the news.
Liz Barraza’s parents, Robert and Rosemary Nuelle, talking about their daughter’s case on the news (KHOU 11).

Someone Known to Liz Likely Killed Her

Again, as mentioned in the numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 76% of murdered females are murdered by someone they know. So, statistically speaking, whoever murdered Liz most likely knew her in some capacity. Who this person might’ve been, I can’t say. 

Although I searched through sources for some hint of marital issues, I couldn’t find any. Many have suggested that the shooting was a murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by Sergio, which is entirely possible. However, at this point in time, there certainly isn’t enough evidence to make an arrest, let alone prosecute Sergio in relation to Liz’s murder. 

Case Outlook

I do think that this case will be solved one day. It will take more evidence coming out, or someone who knows something to speak out, but it can — and should — be solved. In the meantime, Liz’s loved ones are left waiting for answers.

If I would have known it was the last night, I would’ve done so much more. I would’ve said so much,” Sergio told one news outlet during an interview. Liz’s father, Robert Nuelle, said, “My daughter, Liz, spent her life healing and spreading love and cheer to all of those around her, even total strangers.” 

Please, if you have any information about the murder of Liz Barraza, come forward and speak to the relevant authorities. It’s time for Liz and her loved ones to get the justice she deserves.

Case Updates

There have been a number of case updates in the years since Liz’s murder. However, the case currently remains unsolved.

February 7, 2019: GoFundMe Established

A GoFundMe was set up in February 2019 to try to raise funds to contribute to the award money for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Liz’s killer, as well as to donate to the Peter Mayhew Foundation. As of June 2023, it’s far short of its $25,000 goal.

January 25, 2020: Vigil Held

A vigil was held for Liz Barraza a year after her death on January 25, 2020. Authorities continued to ask the public for leads and tips, but nothing seems to have come of this plea.

January 2021: More Surveillance Footage Released

Authorities released additional surveillance footage of the suspect car driving past Liz’s home, then turning around, coming back, and parking in front of the home.

Some of the additional surveillance footage released of the suspect’s vehicle.
Some of the additional surveillance footage released of the suspect’s vehicle (KHOU 11).

October 2022: On the Case with Paula Zahn Episode

In October 2022, an episode of On the Case with Paula Zahn aired titled “A Fairy Tale Ruined.” This episode discussed Liz Barraza’s unsolved murder.

Do You Have Information?

There is currently a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case. If you have any information about the murder of Liz Barraza, please contact Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-8477 or submit a tip online.

A poster seeking information in the murder of Liz Barraza.
A poster seeking information in the murder of Liz Barraza (Houston Crime Stoppers).

Cold Case Questions

  • Do you think Elizabeth Barraza’s death was a targeted killing?
  • Who do you think is responsible for Barraza’s death?
  • Will this case ever be solved?

Tell me your thoughts about this case in the comments below!

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