Sonia Houston wasn’t sure what had killed her mother four years ago. If anything was to blame, it was probably her drinking, Houston said she believed — until Wednesday.
That’s when authorities in Austin, Texas, revealed that convicted murderer Raul Meza Jr., 62, had confessed to multiple killings, including the 2019 death of Houston’s 66-year-old mother, Gloria Lofton.
“Had he not confessed, she would have just been another unknown,” Houston said, putting the blame on authorities for not properly investigating her mother’s death.
Meza, who had been the subject of a manhunt in the May 20 killing of his 80-year-old roommate, made his admission last month after he called a city hotline and was transferred to a homicide detective, police said.
“My name is Raul Meza, and I think you’re looking for me,” Meza said, according to an affidavit in support of Meza’s arrest filed Wednesday in Travis County District Court.
Meza, who served 11 years in prison for the 1982 murder and sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl, has since been accused of murder in both deaths. Austin police say they are looking into links between Meza and as many as 10 unsolved killings dating back to the 1990s.
The revelation has left Houston furious with authorities over their handling of the investigation — an inquiry that she said for years offered few answers and appeared to miss potentially key evidence, including a used condom that Houston said she found in her mother’s kitchen.
According to the affidavit, authorities accused him in the sexual assault and strangulation of Lofton — an allegation partly supported by a swab taken from Lofton at the time of her death that provided a DNA match to Meza in 2020.
Yet in the months after her body was found, the Travis County Medical Examiner listed her cause and manner of death as “undetermined,” according to the affidavit. And Houston said she never heard from authorities again until after Meza told the detective on May 24 that he was responsible for the killing of a “lady” on “Sara Drive.”
“It would have been different if she was white and on the other side” of Austin, Houston’s older sister, Christina Fultz, said in an interview. “It would have been solved in a week.”
Gloria Lofton was of Mexican descent and lived on Austin’s east side.
An Austin Police Department spokesperson said in an email that Chief Joseph Chacon was recently made aware of the case’s details and had launched an administrative review of “potential investigative lapses.”
The spokesperson declined to comment further.
A spokesman for Travis County said he could not comment on how the medical examiner’s office reached its conclusion, citing an active investigation. According to the affidavit, one day after Meza’s call the medical examiner updated Lofton’s manner and cause of death to homicide by strangulation.
A lawyer for Meza, who is being held at the Travis County Correctional Complex on a charge of capital murder, did not respond to a request for comment.
A motive for Lofton’s killing remains unclear. According to the affidavit, Meza told authorities that he had been promised 25% of the money Lofton’s nephew would inherit. But Houston said her mother didn’t have any nephews.
Houston said she has no idea if her mother knew Meza.
A complicated relationship
Houston described her relationship with Lofton as complicated. Her mother was whip-smart, Houston said, and introduced her to books, music and film. Lofton also worked hard doing administrative work, accounting and other clerical jobs to send her daughter to a private Catholic school, Houston said.
But Lofton was troubled, Houston said. She’d been mentally and physically abused by men and never addressed what Houston described as the “demons” that seemed to fester with age, her daughter said. (Houston said her father, who served in the Army and Air Force, was “very respectful” and only stayed with Lofton until their daughter was 4.)
Lofton quit working in her late 40s, spent much of her time drinking and moved in with her father, Houston said.
She last saw her mother on May 8, 2019, when Lofton dispatched her to buy a pack of cigarettes and beer, she said. Houston said she reluctantly agreed after pressuring her mother to eat.
The next day, as Houston returned home, she arrived to police officers who told her of her mother’s death, she said. Authorities had found her in her bedroom, naked from the waist down with the two shirts she was wearing pulled above her head, according to the affidavit.
They offered few details about what had happened, and after roughly 24 hours, authorities had returned her mother’s house keys and said she could return to the home, she said.
A disturbing scene
Houston’s older sister, Fultz, went with her to the house. Lofton had given her older daughter up for adoption as a newborn but the sisters became close in the years before Lofton’s death.
“We sat outside watching the crime scene people leave with bags and they didn’t say anything to us,” Fultz recalled. “They didn’t warn us. They didn’t say, ‘Hey, by the way.'”
“It was so insensitive,” Fultz said. “It was horrifying.”
Inside, the sisters found a home that looked like it had been ransacked, Houston said. There was a bloody pillow and blood spatter down the hallway, Houston said. In the kitchen, Fultz said they found lube, a condom and a wrapper inside what appeared to be a detective’s latex glove.
Houston ran outside and burst into tears, Fultz said, adding: “It was the worst wail of a cry. All I could do was hug her.”
The police department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite the scene, Houston came to believe her mother’s drinking was likely to blame for her death.
“Did she get drunk and hit her head?” Houston said. “She’s home alone. Anyone who’s been drunk, you know accidents do happen. Did she try to crawl her way into bed?”
Houston was baffled by the autopsy’s inconclusive findings, but after Lofton’s death she remained focused on laying her mother to rest and sorting out her affairs — not seeking legal advice, as some suggested.
Now, she wants justice for her mother.
“They wanted us to solely blame the perpetrator, the criminal, and yes I can say all day long how I feel about Raul,” she said. “Karma is a very serious lady.”
She added: “Beyond him, am I supposed to say, they handled this to the best of their abilities? From the looks of it, they didn’t.”