A convicted burglar was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the 2008 disappearance of Kay Read, a Sunday school teacher who lived on Tucson's east side.
After about four hours of deliberation, a jury in Pima County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lee's courtroom found Luis Vargas guilty of murder, burglary, kidnapping, arson and theft, said prosecutor Jonathan Mosher, who works for the Pima County Attorney's Office. The trial began a month ago.
Vargas is facing natural life in prison or 25 years before parole for the murder conviction, said Mosher. He said Vargas is set to be sentenced Sept. 20.
On Feb. 14, 2008, Kay Read, then 62, who taught Sunday school at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, went missing from her home in the 7300 block of East Marigold Circle near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The following day Read's family reported that Read and her van, a turquoise 1996 Dodge Caravan, were gone from her home. Read needed crutches and leg braces to walk because of childhood polio. Both the crutches and braces were left at her house, along with her glasses.
Later that day, her Caravan was found on fire in a parking lot near East Golf Links and South Kolb roads, said Mosher. It was less than two miles from her home.
Police did a massive canvass of the neighborhood in search of Read.
Read's body has not been found. "That is the source of the greatest suffering for this family," said Mosher.
He said Vargas, who was homeless and sometimes stayed with relatives in Tucson, was tied to the murder because of fingerprints on a space heater that was tipped over in Kay's living room. The cord was ripped off the heater and that cord was found in the burning van, said Mosher.
Vargas, who was captured on surveillance footage buying $1 worth of gasoline at a gas station, did so shortly before the van was found burning near the station, Mosher said. He said four of Vargas' relatives identified him as the man who bought the gas.
Read and Vargas did not know each other, said Mosher. "It appears that she opened the door for someone who was claiming that he needed help. That is how Vargas entered her home and "overwhelmed" Read, who was described as a small, disabled woman standing at 5 feet 2 inches and weighing 125 pounds.