DENVER – Attorney General John Suthers today announced that a Larimer County murder fugitive, Manuel Enrique Muela-Luna, was sentenced to 27 years and 6 months in a Mexican federal prison for the murder of 18 year-old Luis Armendariz in 1992.
Muela-Luna shot Armendariz, burning his body beyond recognition, near Estes Park after he learned that Armendariz intended to move in with his pregnant girlfriend. According to investigators, Muela-Luna had sexually abused Armendariz in previous years and was enraged over Armendariz’s intent to marry.
“This is a great success for Colorado law enforcement and I hope that it will provide the Armendariz family with some comfort,” said Attorney General John Suthers. “Historically, one out of every four fugitive murder suspects in Colorado flees to Mexico. But under the leadership of the Attorney General’s Foreign Prosecutions Unit, criminals are on notice that they will be found even if they flee the country.”
Attorney General Suthers was joined by Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson, Sheriff Jim Alderden and the victim’s mother, Josefina Armendariz and brother, Alan Armendariz, at today’s announcement.
“This was a case of great investigating, teamwork and persistence,” said Alderden. “We couldn’t be more pleased that after thirteen years, justice was served.”
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office filed an “Article IV prosecution” case with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduria General de la Republica) on May 8, 2002 and on July 29, 2002 the defendant was formally charged for the murder.
Through an agreement with the United States Government, Article IV of the Mexican Federal Penal Code provides that Mexico has the authority to prosecute certain crimes committed in the United States by Mexican nationals if the suspect is presently living in Mexico. Under Article IV, the U.S. Department of Justice or the State Attorney General on behalf of the local prosecutor must file the case with the Mexican government.
Colorado’s Foreign Prosecution Unit is responsible for five arrests since its inception in 2001. An additional eight cases have been filed and are pending arrests.