Determination led to arrest of slaying suspect

Many people played role in capture of man accused in killing, sheriff says

After countless hours of digging through nearly two-decades-old documents, traveling to Mexico to testify and reinterviewing witnesses, Mesa County officials received the news they wanted to hear.

A former Mesa County man, Rafael Aguilar Garcia, now 59, who long had been suspected of killing 38-year-old Charles Porter, had been arrested in Mexico on a warrant.

The victim’s family members are “pleased to the point of tears,” said LuzMaria Shearer, a criminal investigator with the Colorado’s Attorney General Office, who was instrumental in developing the case.

Shearer, along with Mesa County officials who worked the case, said at a press conference Tuesday they were relieved to finally have a suspect in custody on a nearly 20-year-old murder case that has haunted officials and family members since that fateful day, July 4, 1989.

Garcia is accused of storming into Josie Garcia’s East Orchard Mesa home and shooting Porter twice in the head at close range with a shotgun. Rafael Garcia then made Josie and her two children view Porter’s dead body.

Garcia, who was arrested in Mexico on Thursday, will be tried there.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said his office was able to revive the case in part because deputies who investigated the crime did a thorough job. Also, dogged determination by sheriff’s investigator Lissah Norcross and the expertise of Shearer helped officials locate
Garcia, build a case and persuade a Mexican judge to sign a warrant for the suspect’s arrest.
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said the costs of translating boxes of documents from English into Spanish was paid with drug forfeiture money.

This is the first local case in which a person suspected of committing a crime in Mesa County will be tried in another country. Before agreeing on prosecution in Mexico, Hautzinger said he weighed the costs of extradition, the adverse psychological toll a trial here would take on the victim’s family and the required reduction of charges from first-degree murder to second-degree murder.

Mexico will not extradite suspects to face charges in which they could receive the death penalty.

“This was a horribly traumatic experience for (the victims) who would rather not have (Rafael Garcia) back in the community,” Hautzinger said. “It’s pretty likely that he’ll get convicted. I’m fairly confident that prison there is not like it is in Colorado.”


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