An international fugitive wanted in a 1993 Tomball murder case is back on U.S. soil.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday alongside family of the victim and multiple law enforcement agencies involved in the 23-year case.
In August 1993, 82 year old Mildred Stallones was found dead and naked in her Tomball home. Family described her as a retired local school teacher working at the library in a town she'd called home for 60 years. Police alleged she was sexually assaulted then beaten to death. They issued an arrest warrant that week for Alfred Ramirez-Rojas.
The warrant came too late. Officials said the suspect fled to Mexico, where he'd evade law enforcement for two decades.
"Cold cases only get colder and colder," said Leighton Stallones, son of the victim, on Wednesday. "The family had to stay on top of the situation and continue to be in touch with law enforcement, which I did."
It paid off. In 2013, after two decades of work from multiple judicial and law enforcement agencies, the suspect was taken into custody by Mexican authorities.
Yet the work wasn't done. Kim Bryant, Harris County Extradition Administrator, explained, "it's not like a state extradition where I don't have to prove guilt or innocence. In an international extradition I have to prove we have enough evidence to go to trial."
Bryant told FOX 26 the U.S. side of the process typically takes a number of months to submit. She said it is unusual that Mexican officials, after receiving the case documentation, took several years before agreeing to hand over the fugitive. Bryant never gave up; she continuously push Mexican authorities and "shook the bushes" to ensure the release.
On Wednesday, after three years negotiating with Mexican officials, the suspect stepped back on U.S. soil into the hands of Harris County prosecutors. His return came with a caveat: prosecution had to agree not to pursue the death penalty.
In a city located hours from the Mexican border, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said fleeing fugitives remains an issue in Houston crime.
"We have this happen a lot more than we would like," said Anderson. "But we got this guy, and we'll keep chasing all the other guys, and we won't stop. We won't ever stop. We will chase you and bring you back."