Westminster’s newest homicide detective solves first murder case within days


When a phone call wakes Det. Norma Vasquez from sleep, she knows what it means.

It means a long day ahead.

It means thriving off the rush of adrenaline while combating the fatigue that settles in after more than 20 hours poring over an investigation.

It means her 5-year-old daughter will rub the sleep from her eyes, pack her My Little Pony backpack and get ready for grandma’s house.

But there was something Vasquez didn’t expect from the call that woke Westminster PD’s newest homicide detective March 8.

“There is a male victim found dead in a vehicle,” Sgt. Richard Mize told her. “This one is going to be yours.”

If she was half-asleep before, Vasquez was now fully awake.

This would be her first case serving as the lead detective.

“Of course, I freaked out a little,” she said. “But he said he’d walk me through it. That was reassuring.”

Vasquez moved over to the robbery homicide bureau in January after serving as a detective in the fraud bureau.

She knew this case would move faster than the ones she was used to.

“The more time that passes, the less chance you have of finding the suspect,” she said.

Vasquez took a shower, skipped breakfast and made her way to the department.

A short and to-the-point 911 call reported the crime: “A man was shot in his car,” a lady’s  voice said.

The victim was found dead inside his vehicle near Topaz Street and Sapphire Avenue.

There was little information to go on initially, but after police pulled the call and saw who made the report, their investigation had a direction.

Westminster Police Detective Norma Vasquez.

The woman who called was linked the dead man in the vehicle. Vasquez said they pulled her in for questioning.

Processing evidence and writing up search warrants consumed the first several hours of the investigation.

Then the caller gave a name, and the police had a suspect.

It had been more than 20 hours, and Vasquez was feeling the drag of sleep deprivation.

“You’re so busy, you don’t feel it for so many hours,” she said. “But by the end of the day, I couldn’t focus anymore. I just had to go home and sleep.”

So she rested, but not for very long.

Vasquez was back at 8 a.m. the next morning working leads, relying on her partner and mentor, Det. James Wilson, to help her navigate the case.

“I don’t hesitate to look for advice,” she said. “I look to my supervisor, I look to the more experienced detectives.

In discussing the case, we were able to come up with a plan.”

Vasquez said they tracked the suspect to a home in a gated community in Riverside County.

“You have to work every single lead you have, as little as it may seem,” Vasquez said. “You never know where it’s going to lead you.”

Police wrote up a search warrant and set up surveillance on the home in Canyon Lake where the suspect and his girlfriend were reportedly staying.

When the suspect, the victim’s nephew, left the home, police arrested him.

Daniel Lee Duvall, 37, was arrested on suspicion of homicide, and his girlfriend, Tina Arbogast, 45, was arrested on suspicion of accessory to homicide.

Within 72 hours, Vasquez had solved her first homicide.

“It felt good,” she said. “When something big like this happens, the whole bureau pitches in. It showed great teamwork.”

After the case, Vasquez did the next logical thing: she went to homicide training.

“So that was my first homicide then right after, I go to homicide school,” she said laughing. “Couldn’t school have come first?”

But with the support of her supervisors and experienced colleagues, Vasquez had all the education she needed for a successful outcome.

“It was an accomplishment for the whole team,” she said. “I feel like I’ve built more confidence and I’ll be able to handle my next case more at-ease.”

Westminster Police Detective Norma Vasquez who was assigned to, and solved, her first homicide recently. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Westminster Police Detective Norma Vasquez who was assigned to, and solved, her first homicide recently.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC