Man Held in '97 Slaying of Teen

Times Staff Writer

A man sought in the 1997 slaying of a teenage laborer in Oxnard is in police custody after the FBI and Oxnard police tracked him to an apartment in suburban Decatur, Ala.

Roberto Nava Lagunas, 28, wanted in the shooting death of 18-year-old Noe Guzman Romero, was taken into Oxnard police custody Saturday. He had been awaiting extradition in Alabama since his arrest Dec. 30, FBI officials said.

When arrested, Lagunas was using the name Alfonso Mora and living with a woman and two children, said Special Agent Kerry Straub of the FBI office in Huntsville, Ala. It is unclear whether the woman was his wife or if the children were his, officials said. Lagunas told officials they had the wrong man, Straub said.

Officials thought Lagunas was in his native Mexico until a tip from a relative revealed he might be in the Decatur area, officials said.

"We went out and talked to some people, and sure enough they told us the guy we were looking for was living at this apartment complex," Straub said.

Lagunas had friends in the Decatur area, and that area's recent influx of Mexican laborers allowed Lagunas to blend into his new surroundings, Straub said.

"This is the second murder suspect we found here," Straub said. "I don't understand how people find Decatur, Alabama."

Romero was shot once in the chest on April 14, 1997, after trying to settle an argument between two men who lived across the street from him. All three had been drinking beer outside his home in the 5300 block of Cypress Road when an argument began. The confrontation seemed to have ended, but a short time later Lagunas allegedly fired two or three shots into the air and then shot Romero, who died at the scene, authorities said.

Oxnard Assistant Chief Charles Hookstra said police never stopped looking for Lagunas. "I want people to know that we don't give up on these cases," Hookstra said.

The Police Department recently rehired two retired detectives to examine more than 100 cold cases going back to 1959.

Lagunas has been arraigned and is being held at the Ventura County Jail.

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