Elizabeth Barraza’s death: All about the unsolved murder

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Barraza’s murder in January 2019 continues to confound her family and investigators. Its brutality and apparent randomness rocked the tight-knit community in Tomball, a suburb of Houston, Texas. Barraza was happily married, a cheerful giver, and an ardent Star Wars fan. Her unfortunate killing seemingly came out of nowhere. 

The killer left little to link the crime back to them: all that’s clear is that they drove a 2013 (or newer) model Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. Surveillance cameras caught the killer walking up to Elizabeth, having a brief conversation with her, and shooting her four times, thrice in the chest and once in the head. 

Elizabeth was killed as she prepared for an impromptu garage sale

Elizabeth Barraza

Elizabeth had hosted several garage sales on her driveway, but this one was different: she hadn’t had much time to prepare or advertise. She’d come up with the idea the night before the murder to raise funds for a planned anniversary trip to Florida.

“Her suitcase for the anniversary trip was packed… she was ready to walk out the door,” her father, Robert Nuelle, said. Elizabeth’s husband, Sergio, had just left home for work at his flooring job when a black Nissan Frontier Pro-4X stopped near the driveway. 

Only a few coworkers, friends, and family knew about the sale. The driver left the car running, walked up to Elizabeth, shot her, and ran back to the car. A couple of minutes later, the driver drove back, seemingly to confirm that they’d completed their mission. 

“Three gunshots, rapid-fire, then wait another second or two, and then another gunshot,” Candy Ellis, a neighbor who dialed 911, said. Elizabeth died hours after arriving at the Memorial Hermann Hospital. 

A registered organ donor, Barraza donated her corneas, kidneys, liver, and heart. The loss left Barraza’s loved ones reeling and trying to comprehend why someone targeted such a benign character. 

Days later, Barraza’s friends and family attended a vigil at her home carrying Star Wars toys and lightsabers, which they lit and lifted in the air in Liz’s honor. “My daughter, Liz, spent her life healing and spreading love and cheer to all of those around her, even total strangers,” Bob Nuelle said

Elizabeth’s parents offer $50,000 for information leading to the resolution of her case

Elizabeth’s parents initially offered $20,000, but three years after the murder, they increased the reward to $50,000. “Here we are, three years,” Bob said at a press conference, per ABC13. “Doggedly engaged in this fight for justice for a young woman who was taken from all of us.”

Detective Wallace Wyatt stated that the case hadn’t gone cold. “Unsolved cases are the unfinished business of law enforcement,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “The detectives you see who are on this case will never forget Liz, and they won’t stop until they complete the case.”

Bob Nuelle said that over 145 donors had contributed the additional $30,000 to help the family’s cause. “That is 50,000 reasons for someone to come forward and do the right thing,” Bob said. 

Barraza’s family has stepped up efforts to gain information about the case. They’ve reached out to true crime content creators on multiple platforms hoping to get Barraza’s story to new audiences. 

“I just hope this helps. And I hope someone steps up,” Liz’s husband, Sergio, said. “We need somebody to do the right thing. We need justice for Liz, and we hope to get that this year.”

Barraza’s parents hang onto little things – the Harry Potter shoes she drew and a coin made in her honor – which serve as reminders to keep fighting for her. “We want to get this person off the street, we want to get justice for our daughter because she deserves that,” Bob Nuelle told KHOU 11. Rosemary Nuelle, Liz’s mother, added:

“I think it can be solved, I whole-heartedly want it to be solved. I don’t know how long it will take but you know what, for as long as it takes, we are going to be out there and we are going to be fighting for it because somebody does know something.”

Crime Stoppers of Houston victim advocate Andy Kahan stated that they’d pull all the stops to find the killer. “We’re going to do everything humanely possible to try and find out who killed their beautifully, kind daughter, Elizabeth,” Andy said

Police have chased down several leads, but they haven’t yielded results

Police have investigated Elizabeth’s murder for over three years and are yet to make substantial progress. The crippling absence of evidence has hampered investigation efforts, prompting police and the family to offer a monetary reward for a groundbreaking clue. 

Whether by chance or otherwise, the killer evaded cameras that may have led to their or their car’s identification. Furthermore, police didn’t recover shell casings or forensic evidence tied to the killer. 

It’s hard to decipher the killer’s gender from the surveillance footage. Their build and gait suggest they were feminine, but their execution of the murder and subsequent getaway seem masculine. 

Some claim that the person wore a wig and a robe to disguise their true appearance. The shooter used one hand and didn’t struggle with recoil, suggesting they had plenty of experience with the weapon. 

The swift and heartless nature of the killing suggests that this was a planned hit – someone paid an assassin to murder Elizabeth. Detective Wallace Wyatt said:

“We’re not sure what was said by the suspect, and then, shoots her three times. She falls to the ground. This horrible, calculated, premeditated and pitiless murderers steps over her and shoots her and shoots her again in the head. About two minutes later, the suspect drives back to look at their work, seeing what they’ve done, to make sure Liz is dead.”

Bob Nuelle believes that the key to solving the case is finding out how the killer knew that Elizabeth would be standing on her driveway at that hour: only a few people knew of the garage sale she’d planned the night before. 

“How did they know she would be standing on that driveway, alone at 6:50 a.m. in the morning? On Friday, January 25th, that to me, is like really. I think that might be the key,” Bob Nuelle told KHOU 11