Mexican officials arrest suspect in hunting death
DENVER – Mexican law enforcement officers last week arrested a suspect in the killing of a Qwest executive who was turkey hunting near New Castle last year. Colorado law enforcement officials and prosecutors announced Tuesday that Oscar Hoyos DeLaCruz has been apprehended and faces charges in Mexico.”After an extensive search for DeLaCruz, I’m pleased to announce that he has been taken into custody by Mexican authorities,” Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said at a news conference.Police began investigating the death of Jeff Garrett on May 14, 2005, 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 began after Garrett’s two hunting partners told authorities the 37-year-old Qwest executive had failed to meet them as planned. Garfield County 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 adjacent to where Garrett was shot.A legal Mexican worker told them he and DeLaCruz had been clearing brush from ranch property when they heard turkey calls. DeLaCruz took a .22-caliber weapon from an ATV the two had taken out to work and then shot toward the turkey calls. The worker said that after DeLaCruz saw he’d shot Garrett, he then fled to Mexico that day. 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, Suthers said. Imprudent homicide is roughly equivalent to a charge of manslaughter in the United States, Suthers said. 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 Tuesday said 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,” Garrett read from a prepared statement.
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