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Justice served

Ryan GraffSpecial to the Post Independent

DENVER – Mexican law enforcement officers arrested Oscar Hoyos DeLaCruz last week for killing turkey hunter Jeff Garrett near New Castle last May, Colorado law enforcement and prosecutors announced Tuesday. “After an extensive search for DeLaCruz, I’m pleased to announce that he has been taken into custody by Mexican authorities,” said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers at a press conference.DeLaCruz faces “imprudent homicide” and reckless abandonment charges in Mexico under Article 4, which allows Mexican nationals to be prosecuted in their country for crimes committed in the United States, said Suthers. “Imprudent homicide” is roughly equivalent to a charge of manslaughter in the United States, Suthers added. DeLaCruz faces 12-24 years in Mexican prison.Garfield County Sheriff’s office officials had talked about the possibility of extradition after identifying DeLaCruz last June as the alleged shooter, but said yesterday their preference was that justice be served, whether in Mexico or Colorado. State officials and Garrett’s widow, Charlotte Garrett, shared the sentiment. “This past Sunday, Father’s Day, was a day to remember what a loving papa Jeff was, and now it will also forever be a day to celebrate that our hopes and prayers for justice were answered,” Charlotte Garrett read from a prepared statement. The Colorado District Attorney has dealt with several high-profile cases lately in which Mexican citizens have committed serious crimes in the United States then fled to Mexico. In fact, the attorney general also used Tuesday’s press conference to announce that another Mexican citizen would be tried under Article Four for allegedly stabbing a roommate 140 times in Greeley. Colorado’s Foreign Prosecutions Unit has worked with the Mexican officials on 11 arrests since its inception in 2001. Suthers said the success of the program sends a clear message: “You can’t flee to Mexico and get a get-out-of-jail-free card.” DeLaCruz’s arrest marked the end of a 13-month search for Garrett’s killer, which began May 14 after a Garfield County Search and Rescue team found the Aurora man dead in the East Elk Creek area north of New Castle. The search team was sent out after it was notified by Garrett’s two hunting partners that the 37-year-old Qwest executive had failed to meet them at day’s end as planned. Garfield County Sheriff investigators quickly focused on the theory that Garrett – who was found in heavy brush, wearing camouflage and with a turkey caller – had been shot by a hunter who mistook Garrett’s calls for a real turkey. That theory, however, left a few questions unanswered. Namely, if Garrett was killed by another hunter, why was that hunter using .22-caliber bullets instead of a shotgun, as mandated by law?After a month’s worth of work, investigators questioned management and workers for a second time at the Bear Wallow Ranch, which leases Bureau of Land Management land that butts up to the spot Garrett was shot.A legal Mexican worker told them that he and DeLaCruz had been clearing brush from ranch property when they heard Garrett’s turkey calls. DeLaCruz took a ranch .22-caliber weapon from an ATV the two had taken out to work, and shot toward the turkey calls. The worker said that after DeLaCruz saw he’d shot Garrett, he then fled to Mexico that day. “(DeLaCruz) got almost a month’s jump on us,” said Garfield County investigator Bill Middleton, but the witness gave investigators a pretty good idea of where DeLaCruz went. Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson was at the press conference and thanked Suthers’ office and officials in Mexico for their guidance in handling the case and apprehending DeLaCruz in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. The witness remains in Colorado, though the district attorney’s office hasn’t decided if he will face prosecution, said Beeson. Charlotte Garrett declined to give any comment other than read from her statement. But the past year and yesterday’s announcement were clearly very difficult. Charlotte Garrett only shook her head when questioned by reporters. But the intensity of her emotion showed clearly when asked how she felt about the people who had worked on the investigation. With tears in her eyes she gave a long hug to LuzMaria Shearer, a criminal investigator with the Foreign Prosecutions Unit who told Garrett last week that DeLaCruz had been arrested.


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