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Okaloosa Sheriff’s Investigators’ dedication leads to arrest in 2002 Homicide Case of 2-year-old child

Back in September 2022, 37-year-old Mary Liza was arrested in California on an OCSO homicide warrant for the 2002 murder of two-year-old Marselina Liza.  Captain David Allen said, “Why don’t we […]

Screenshots via Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office video

Back in September 2022, 37-year-old Mary Liza was arrested in California on an OCSO homicide warrant for the 2002 murder of two-year-old Marselina Liza. 

  • The case was reopened after investigators decided to take a fresh look at the case and noticed something new. 

Captain David Allen said, “Why don’t we bring this back to the medical examiner and see what they think, because we think maybe there was a mistake made.”

After a thorough reevaluation, the medical examiner’s office agreed and changed the cause of death from homicide to shaken baby syndrome. Based on this new evidence and additional interviews, an arrest warrant for felony murder was issued for Liza.

“Based on the evidence that we had and new interviews, we were able to submit an arrest warrant for Felony murder on the mother,” added Capt. Allen. “This occurred in 2002, almost 20 years ago, she was probably very surprised when we showed up to pick her up for the death of her daughter.”

Sheriff Eric Aden spoke about the dedication of the investigators at the OCSO, saying, “It’s all about the dedication of those individuals over there in CID. They’re already overworked. Overwhelmed with the current crimes, not just the cold cases, but the current crimes that we continually receive on the daily basis.”

  • He added that they’re passionate about working their cold cases and, even if they can’t solve anything for the moment, “they still go in there and actively see if there’s anything they can turn over that could remotely result in rejuvenating that case a little bit further.”

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This past year alone, the OCSO has made four arrests in cold case homicides, according to the OCSO. 

  • New witness testimony and DNA solved the February 1981 death of Bert Gross near Crestview. Suspect Gary Ruff of New York passed away before the arrest warrant was activated. 
  • DNA evidence in a 1983 sexual battery in Florosa led to the identification of suspect Richard Lane of Nevada. 
  • New information presented to the state attorney’s office showed that the stabbing death of Eric Roberts on Okaloosa Island in April 2007 was not self-defense, leading to the arrest of Cornelius Lee of Fort Walton Beach. 
  • In the 2005 murder of Luis Gonzalez on Okaloosa Island, new witness testimony and latent fingerprint comparisons led to the arrest of four suspects in the drug related shooting.

Sheriff Aden described the dedication of the investigators, saying, “You get so intimately involved in a case, especially a homicide case or any case really where someone suffers at the hands of another. These investigators, they put themselves in the family’s position as far as their passion and their commitment to the case.”

Aden added that he’s seen investigators crying over cases with family members because of the emotional impact and the hours (and sometimes years) that it takes to bring justice to a family.

Liza remains in a California jail cell pending extradition to Florida. The OCSO’s unrelenting search for justice for the victims continues to pay off, as they continue to prioritize taking a fresh look at cold case files.

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