PHOENIX — It’s been nearly five years since a spree of freeway shootings in the Valley that put a lot of us on high alert.
The shootings remain a mystery, but new documents claim the state may have missed evidence that links an accused serial killer to the crimes.
Investigators with the Department of Public Safety originally claimed Leslie Merritt Jr. was responsible for four of the 11 freeway shootings in 2015.
Gov. Doug Ducey even celebrated the news with an ill-fated tweet: "We got him."
Merritt Jr. was held in solitary confinement for nearly seven months before the state’s case fell apart.
“I’m the wrong guy. I tried telling the detectives,” Merritt Jr. said.
Authorities released Merritt Jr., and prosecutors dropped all charges against him.
Around the same time as the freeway shootings, a serial killer was on the loose in the Maryvale area – linked to the deaths of nine people in 12 separate shooting incidents.
Ultimately, investigators arrested Aaron Saucedo in connection to those deadly shootings.
Now, new documents that Merritt. Jr.’s attorney is filing claim DPS may have overlooked evidence linking Saucedo to the freeway shootings.
The documents were filed in a civil lawsuit against the state for Merritt Jr.’s wrongful arrest. They say license plate reader data identified Saucedo’s car near at least two of the freeway shooting locations.
The documents also claim investigators should have known Saucedo was a suspect because his gun was “not in pawn" at the time of the four shootings.
Both Merritt and Saucedo pawned their guns at the Mo Money Pawn Shop in Phoenix. DPS investigators seized these guns among six others in the freeway shooting investigation.
But they claimed Merritt Jr.’s gun was a match, not Saucedo’s. So nearly five years later, authorities have not made any other arrests in the freeway shootings.
When asked about the case, DPS referred us to a statement from 2017, saying there is no evidence linking Saucedo to the freeway shootings:
“With the arrest of Aaron Juan Saucedo on Friday by Phoenix Police Department the DPS has received inquiries about any involvement that DPS may have had with evidence related to that arrest, specifically a highpoint 9mm handgun. There is no evidence to suggest that the arrest of Saucedo is tied to any DPS investigations,” the statement begins.
We reached out to Saucedo’s attorney for comment, but we haven’t heard back.