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Friday, July 25, 2014

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Suspect in 2010 Houston murder arrested in El Salvador

Dale Lezo, Houston Chronicle
Updated 8:26 pm, Friday, April 11, 2014

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  • Juan J. Castillo, 29 / handout email
    Juan J. Castillo, 29 Photo: handout email

 

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A fugitive murder suspect has been arrested in El Salvador years after he fled to the Central American nation from Houston following the slaying of his wife.

Juan Castillo is charged with murder in the February 2010 fatal shooting of Monica Leija, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said during a news conference Friday about the case. Anderson said Castillo was arrested Tuesday by authorities in El Salvador.

Details about the arrest were not available.

It is reportedly the first time El Salvador has cooperated with the arrest of a Harris County fugitive, Anderson said. Now, she added, her office will work to extradite Castillo, 33, to Harris County to face the charge. The process may take a minimum of six months.

"We are hopeful for success in this extradition because El Salvadorian authorities have arrested the defendant on behalf of the U.S.," said Kim Bryant, extradition administrator for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "The next step in the extradition process is that the El Salvadorian government will receive copies of evidence and statements in the case and then will determine within their court system whether they will order the defendant extradited back to the U.S. in the near future."

The arrest brought hope to Leija's family that Castillo would face justice at last.

Leija's sister, Adriana Hernandez, said she and her family had waited a long time for his capture and were happy he was finally in custody. She was at her sister's grave side, she said, when officials telephoned her this week with the good news.

"It was just a beautiful day," she said. "It gives my family a whole bunch of peace in our heart. We're just so happy."

Details of the shooting are grim. Officials said the couple had argued in their kitchen before the slaying. They sent their two small children upstairs to sleep. Later, the 36-year-old mother joined the children in the bedroom.

The couple's 5-year-old daughter, officials said, later saw Castillo come into the room, lean down, whisper something into her mother's ear and shoot her.