25-Year Sentence in Newsman’s Killing : Crime: Former security chief at Caliente track is second person sentenced in slaying of ‘El Gato’ Felix.

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From Associated Press

The former head of security at Agua Caliente race track was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1988 shotgun killing of popular newspaper columnist Hector (Gato) Felix Miranda.

Antonio Vera Palestina, 38, also was ordered by a state judge Thursday to pay nearly $2,000 to the estate of the journalist, who wrote for and co-edited the weekly newspaper ZETA.

Vera was convicted two weeks ago after a lengthy trial. He was captured last May by Los Angeles police acting on a tip from Baja California state police. Vera was voluntarily deported to Tijuana, where he was charged with murder.


Felix, 47, was ambushed and slain with two 12-gauge shotgun blasts on the morning of April 20, 1988, while on his way to work.

A second man, Victoriano Medina Moreno, who once worked under Vera at Caliente Race Track, was arrested 10 days after the shooting. He was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in the state penitentiary for his role in the killing.

Medina at first implicated Vera as an accomplice but later recanted his confession, saying it had been coerced by police.

Felix was a well-known journalist whose column, “A Little Bit of Something,” often was critical of Tijuana politicians and leading businessmen.

The killing sent a chill through the journalistic community here because of other incidents of death threats and assassination of journalists in Mexico.

After the slaying, ZETA pressured state and police officials to find and prosecute the killers. Much of ZETA’s attention focused on Jorge Hank Rhon, the owner of the Agua Caliente track. Hank is the son of one of Mexico’s wealthiest and most powerful politicians, Secretary of Agriculture Carlos Hank Gonzalez.


Each week ZETA published one page alleging that Hank Rhon had a role in the murder and demanding that the state government take action.

Hank denied any involvement in the killing of Felix, who sometimes ridiculed the track owner in his column. Police said Hank is not a suspect.

During Vera’s trial, prosecutors presented a police tape-recording of an interview of his common-law wife in which she said Vera discussed killing Felix. The defense said the recording was illegal.