5 Accused of Killing 2 Men They Took for DEA Agents
In a major spinoff of the investigation into the slaying of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena, an American citizen and four Mexican nationals have been indicted in the 1985 torture-murders of two Americans in Mexico who had been mistaken for narcotics agents, a DEA spokesman said Thursday.
In addition, the sealed indictment, returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, names a new individual as a defendant in the Camarena slaying, which took place about a month after the other two murders.
The new defendant is Juan Gilberto Hernandez-Parra, described by DEA officials as “a federal judicial police officer” from Mexico. He is a fugitive believed to be at large in his homeland.
Another individual named in the new indictment, Javier Vasquez-Velasco of Mexico, was arrested without incident in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon by members of the DEA’s “Operation Leyenda Task Force,” according to agency spokesman Ralph B. Lochridge. The task force was formed to investigate the Camarena murder.
“It’s a major step and a major culmination of the Camarena investigation,” Lochridge said of the naming of defendants in the January, 1985, murders in Guadalajara, Mexico, of John Walker, 38, of St. Paul, Minn., and his friend, Albert Radelat, 32, of Ft. Worth, Tex.
Walker, a Vietnam veteran who had been writing a book about the Mexican Mafia, and Radelat, a college student, apparently were the victims of mistaken identity, according to Mexican investigators.
On the evening of Jan. 30, 1985, they went to a restaurant called La Langosta (The Lobster), which was the scene of a private party hosted by Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro-Quintero and his sidekick, Ernesto Fonseca-Carrillo.
Caro-Quintero and Fonseca-Carrillo, both currently in prison in Mexico on drug-trafficking convictions, were previously indicted on charges of conspiracy to kidnap and kill Camarena. In Wednesday’s indictment, they both also were charged in the murders of Walker and Radelat.
According to Mexican authorities, when the two Americans attempted to leave the restaurant, they were stopped by Caro-Quintero’s bodyguards when someone identified them as “DEA spies.” Both protested to no avail.
Mexican investigators said the two were forced into separate rooms in the restaurant where they were tortured with knives and ice picks for more than an hour. Investigators believed Walker died from the torture and that Radelat was shot to death at a nearby park, where both were buried.
“The killers believed they were DEA agents,” recounted Lochridge. “So we believe the killers felt very macho” when the DEA took no immediate action in the case.
“Since they were not DEA agents, we weren’t immediately aware of their murders,” the DEA spokesman said.
A month later, Camarena, 37, was kidnaped as he left the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara to meet his wife for lunch. His severely beaten body and that of his pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, were found several weeks later on a remote ranch 70 miles north of that city.
In the new indictment returned Wednesday, five individuals in all were indicted in the murders of Walker and Radelat.
They are: Hernandez-Parra; Vasquez-Velasco; Caro-Quintero, described by drug investigators as the mastermind of the murder of Camarena; Fonseca-Carrillo; and Ezequiel Godinez-Cervantes, a U.S. citizen who escaped from Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, where he was serving a prison term on drug charges. He was subsequently captured in Mexico and is in prison term there on a drug trafficking conviction.
Two of the five indicted on Wednesday, Vasquez-Velasco and Godinez-Cervantes, have not been charged in the Camarena murder.
Two other Mexican nationals, Rene Verdugo Urquidez, one of Caro-Quintero’s top lieutenants, and Raul Alvarez-Lopez, a Mexican state police officer, were each sentenced in Los Angeles federal court in October, 1988, to life plus 240 years in prison for their roles in the Camarena murder.
Another Mexican national, Jesus Felix Gutierrez, received a maximum of 10 years when he was sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles in September, 1988, for helping Caro-Quintero flee to Costa Rica in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid prosecution in the Camareno murder.
Yet another defendant, Juan Jose Bernabe-Ramirez, a state police homicide investigator from Guadalajara, is awaiting trial in Los Angeles in the Camarena slaying.
DEA spokesman Lochridge said the Camarena investigation has not concluded.
“We anticipate additional arrests and prosecutions,” he said. “The DEA will not rest until everyone involved is captured and prosecuted.”