Las Vegas Murder Suspect Ordered Extradited to U.S.

A man wanted for murder in Las Vegas was ordered Friday to surrender himself for extradition to the U.S.

In May last year, Leandro Lopez-Turatiz, 27, was arrested in Vancouver on a warrant for the May 2009 murder of Francisco Lambert-Cordero, 23.

U.S. authorities allege that Lopez-Turatiz killed Lambert-Cordero by shooting him in the back of the head in a Las Vegas home.

Lopez-Turatiz attempted to clean up the bloody scene in the house and then moved the body to the garage, say authorities in documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

While he was moving the body, Lopez-Turatiz touched the garage with his hand and made an imprint on the wall with Lambert-Cordero’s blood, say authorities.

Lopez-Turatiz allegedly loaded the body into the trunk of a car, drove to a remote area in Clark County, Nev., and disposed of the body, covering it with pine boughs.

Lopez-Turatiz is said to have then driven to an empty lot in South Las Vegas Valley and attempted to dispose of blood-covered sheets used to cover the body by setting them on fire.

Soon after, Lopez-Turatiz fled the U.S. and entered Canada.

The Las Vegas home where the murder is alleged to have been committed was a marijuana grow-op.

Court heard that Lopez-Turatiz and Lambert-Cordero had been among a group of Cuban nationals who sought refugee status when they arrived in Florida in January 2007.

Both men were admitted into the U.S. under probationary refugee status, with Lopez-Turatiz being relocated to Las Vegas and Lambert-Cordero being initially sponsored into the Miami area by family members.

At trial, Lopez-Turatiz’s lawyer argued that the evidence, entirely circumstantial, consisted of “conjecture and speculation” and was insufficient for extradition committal.

But in a ruling released Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie found there were sufficient grounds for committal.

“Having considered all of the circumstantial evidence and engaged in a limited weighing of it, I conclude that a properly instructed jury could reasonably infer that Mr. Lopez[-Turatiz] shot Mr. Lambert[-Cordero] in the back of the head with the required intent for murder,” said the judge.

Lopez-Turatiz has 30 days to appeal and can apply for bail. The next stage in the process is for the federal justice minister to decide whether to extradite him back to the U.S.

This article was written by Keith Fraser and published by The Province on October 9, 2011.


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