Karen Wright Case now a Homicide Investigation

Merced County, Calif. A picture captures the last birthday Karen Wright celebrated with family members before disappearing in February. The 50-year-old was last seen at a vacation home she shared with her estranged husband in San Felipe, Mexico. And now Merced County Sheriff's detectives believe she is dead.

"With some of the information we're gleaning from the Mexican authorities, coupled with what we have and some of the inconsistencies of stories and order of events, we believe Karen Wright was murdered," said Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin.

Sheriff Pazin couldn't elaborate on what led to her case being declared a homicide because of the on-going investigation. But he did say Karen's husband, Randal Wright, is considered a person of interest.

Deputies arrested the 59-year-old earlier this year on auto theft related charges they discovered while investigating his wife's disappearance. He pleaded no contest to two felony counts last month and will be sentenced in October.

Sheriff Pazin said the illegal activity and other circumstances surrounding Randal Wright have similarities to the case against Dave Hawk, who was found guilty of murdering his ex-wife Debbie last week despite the fact her body has never been found. "We've been watching with great interest the Hawk case in Kings County, and there are some commonalities to that. Wife, ex-wife, money, all those are motives."

Detectives are also still investigating the disappearance of two of Wright's employees in 1993. Their bodies have never been found, and Wright has not been named a suspect in the double homicide. His attorney could not be reached for comment about the latest developments in Karen's case, but he has previously told Action News Wright has done nothing wrong. "I'm sure that if the police or district attorney thought there was enough evidence to charge him with anything else they would, and they're not," said Defense Attorney Tom Pfeiff.

Karen Wright's family members told Action News they suspected she was murdered all along, but hearing the homicide label still brought them to tears. They said they'll keep fighting for justice until someone is held accountable.

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