Monday was the day Linda Norwood has been waiting for since 1982.
A fugitive wanted on the 29-year-old double murder and rape of her cousin, Nancy Rubia, and Rubia’s friend, Renee Rontal, finally has been charged, following a complicated extradition process from Mexico that took U.S. authorities four months to attain after his long-awaited capture.
“We feel numb,” Norwood said. “We’re happy, and we’re glad he’s been captured. It’s just sad that it had to take all these years. “But we’re glad the investigators never gave up.”
Alfredo Reyes Reyes, who had been hiding in Mexico for nearly three decades, was arraigned Monday on suspicion of the premeditated murders and rapes of Rubia and Rontal, who both were 13.
Rubia’s relatives sat in the courtroom audience Monday – facing the back of a man who for so long seemed elusive but is at last looking at a lifetime inprison.
“It’s rather amazing that somebody (sought for) murder can hide out for close to 30 years,” said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Mayo, who is handling the case. “I don’t know how he lived his life with what he did.”
Rubia and Rontal were last seen alive Jan. 25, 1982. Investigators say the girls were seen getting into a white-and-brown Pontiac Firebird with two men who were cruising along Charter Way.
The next day, a farm worker found Rontal floating facedown in a shallow water ditch on Bacon Island, west of Stockton.
Responding deputies located Rubia in the area, also facedown.
Reyes’ friend, Antonio Espinoza, now 50, has been sitting on San Quentin’s death row for the gruesome slayings since the mid-1980s.
But law enforcement officials had a difficult time finding Reyes, now 51.
Stockton City Councilman Elbert Holman, then a detective assigned to the case, recalled chasing after Reyes.
Holman and his partner traveled as far as Mexico and into the hills of the Sierra Madre, facing the danger of drug-related violence along the way.
Yet, after every lead and search warrant, they came back empty-handed.
Earlier this year, the FBI helped facilitate the arrest of Reyes. And last week, he was transported from a Tijuana jail to San Joaquin County on the condition that he would not face the death penalty.
Holman was called to assist in the questioning of Reyes last week.
“To see him face to face the other day, it just took me back to memories – of all the work we did back them,” Holman said. “After more than 20 years, you wonder if you would have known him if you’d ever see him.”
Holman remembers promising both girls’ families the manhunt would continue until Reyes was brought to justice.
County authorities collaborated with the FBI and relied on the cooperation of an informant. Reyes, known to enjoy the party scene and frequent pool halls, was arrested May 27 in a Tijuana pool hall by FBI agents and Mexican federal police.
“My hat goes off to the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department and their detectives in continuing to pursue him. I think that’s really commendable,” Holman said. “I’m glad we have an opportunity to bring closure to this case.”
Local prosecutors originally anticipated that transporting Reyes might have taken up to a year.
Norwood said her family waited anxiously, worrying that any potential paperwork error could have delayed the process, or that Reyes could have been set free by Mexican authorities before local prosecutors had the chance to extradite him.
The District Attorney’s Office had only two months to file an extradition request with Mexican officials, and it had to agree that Reyes would not be subjected to the death penalty.
Mexico instituted anti-capital punishment laws in 2005 that prevent the transfer of suspects who would otherwise be sentenced to death.
Norwood said her family was initially disappointed that the death penalty wasn’t an option, but they’re thankful that Reyes at least – and at last – is being prosecuted.
“I believe Nancy just hasn’t been able to rest until this piece of the puzzle is solved,” Norwood said.
Prosecutors are confident they have the evidence to convict Reyes.
DNA and other forensic evidence taken at the crime scene will now be tested. The technology didn’t exist then, but the samples of semen and blood have been saved, Mayo said.
And he’s happy to have it. There is concern that witness testimony from nearly 30 years ago might not be as precise as science.
As for Norwood, what the family wants to know now is why Rubia and Rontal were killed.
“We want the truth. What did they do to deserve that? … They were still babies,” Norwood said. “They can’t give us Nancy and Renee back, but they can give us that answer.”
This article was written by Jennie Rodriguez-Moore and published on October 18, 2011 by Recordnet.com.
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