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Man pleads guilty in 2015 cold case in Denver

Posted at 1:23 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 15:23:54-04

DENVER — A 29-year-old man pleaded guilty to murder in connection with the 2015 fatal shooting of a father visiting his daughter in Denver.

On March 10, Nicholas Christopher Lujan pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder, according to the Denver District Attorney's Office. He was accused of killing Jose Frias-Olivas, 61.

Frias-Olivas was visiting family in Denver at the time of his death. On the morning of Aug. 15, 2015, he left his daughter's home in southwest Denver for a walk through Harvard Gulch Park West.

He was shot to death in the park in the broad daylight around 10:23 a.m., according to an arrest affidavit. He was just a few feet from Federal Boulevard and was alone and unarmed.

When police arrived at the scene, they found he had been shot once in the back of the head, according to the affidavit.

Several witnesses told police they heard two to three gunshots and described the three or five people running east along the bike path away from the area.

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One witness later told police that one of the people running away from the scene had a claw-like tattoo over his eye like the Monster drink symbol.

In October 2015, a detective took four suspects in custody for a robbery. One had the same tattoo described by the witness at the shooting scene in August. A black long barrel revolver was seized from a backpack, according to the affidavit.

In April 2016, detectives learned that a sedan was seized by Northglenn police the previous September and investigators had found a .22 caliber Ruger handgun and cell phone in the vehicle.

That handgun matched the shell casings recovered from the shooting scene and the DNA profile recovered from the magazine of the handgun matched Lujan, according to the affidavit.

Detectives obtained saliva samples from Lujan while he served his sentence for the robbery case, according to the affidavit.

Witnesses told police through the spring of 2019 that Lujan planned to rob Frias-Olivas but then decided to kill him. Police learned that Lujan washed his hands with bleach and cleaned the firearm. He also bragged to others about killing a man, the affidavit reads.

Investigators also learned that after the shooting, he used his cell phone to search for a news story on the homicide. He also searched for his own name, according to the affidavit.

After years of investigating this case — which included digital evidence — the Denver cold case team was able to arrest Lujan in 2021.

Lujan is scheduled to be sentenced on June 9.

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