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Charges: Fingerprints, DNA led to Minnesota man’s arrest in 1983 Texas murder

For three decades, a set of fingerprints lifted from the scene of a Denton, Texas, slaying languished in police databases without a match.

Then, thanks to system upgrades, it spat out a hit: a Lakeville man who’d raised a family in Minnesota and seemed to stay on the right side of the law.

The break in the cold case, combined with blood evidence from the scene of the 1983 crime, led investigators to the door of Robert. A. Otteson, according to court documents. The 53-year-old mechanic is accused of fatally stabbing a San Antonio businessman in a hotel room 31 years ago and fleeing to his home state.

Otteson appeared Thursday in Dakota County District Court as an alleged fugitive. He won’t fight extradition to Texas, and officials from that state are to collect him within 10 days.

He was indicted on murder charges Aug. 8 in Texas, and arrested Monday by Lakeville police, Texas law enforcement agents and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The cold case involved the fatal stabbing of San Antonio businessman Francisco Narvaez in a hotel room in Denton, northwest of Dallas. Narvaez, 42, was stabbed 35 times in his chest, neck, face, hands and back, and found in his underwear.

Police released a sketch of a male suspect, but never found him or the murder weapon. Previous efforts to shake the case loose centered on Oklahoma City, where Narvaez’ car was found later the day he was killed.

Investigators collected blood evidence from a stain in a hotel room shower and from Narvaez’ nail clippings, but DNA testing wasn’t widely available at the time. They also pulled fingerprints from the crime scene.

In 2010, a Denton officer sent the stored evidence to a lab for testing. The results showed there was one unknown male at the scene, according to court documents.

Three years later, the fingerprints turned up a match for Otteson, who was found to be living in Lakeville. The prints had been in the system for 30 years, but "recent enhancements made to the identification process" made the match possible, court documents said.

Denton police declined Thursday to say more about how the match was made. People can be fingerprinted for reasons ranging from arrests to background checks for jobs to volunteer positions at schools.

The Minnesota BCA searched Otteson’s garbage and recovered a DNA sample. Testing showed him to be a major contributor to the DNA from the crime scene in match likely to occur in just one of about 21.5 billion Caucasian subjects.

In court Thursday, Otteson did not speak other than to answer procedural questions from the judge. He appeared composed and exchanged glances with several family members who came to see him.

His family declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.

Otteson asked through his attorney not to be questioned here, while in transit or in Texas.

Born in Hennepin County in 1960, Otteson was 23 when Narvaez was slain. He has lived in Minnesota since at least the late 1980s, court records show, married here in 1991 and has at least two children.

He and his wife have lived in their Lakeville home since 1997. Otteson has no serious criminal history here, collecting a few traffic and parking citations.

Texas officials will arrange for his transit there. A review hearing is set for Aug. 22 in case they have not come for him by then.