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Caliente Track Boss Denies Slaying Link

May 02, 1988|PATRICK McDONNELL | Times Staff Writer

Hank, who said he maintains residences in both San Diego and Tijuana, said he had no plans to leave Tijuana because of the unfolding scandal at the track.

"There's something like 2,000 people working here for me," Hank said. "I can't know the backgrounds of each and every one of them."

Blancornelas, the newspaper editor and longtime colleague of the murdered columnist, said he was convinced that the two track employees were likely the actual killers of Felix. However, he stated his belief that the actual "author" of the slaying had yet to be found.

Suspect in Custody

The alleged trigger man in the columnist's murder, 37-year-old Medina, is now in police custody. If convicted of murder, he could face up to 30 years in jail. In documents released by authorities, Medina is said to have exchanged $10,000 into pesos at the track within a day of the murder.

Authorities identified the alleged driver of the getaway car as Antonio Vera Palestina, chief of security at the track and an employee of Hank and his father for more than a dozen years in both Mexico City and Tijuana. Police are seeking Vera.

Two other track security officers were also reportedly being sought in connection with the case. Hank said Vera and the others hadn't been seen at the track since last Wednesday.

There was more evidence linking the race track and the slaying.

The getaway car, described as a black Pontiac Trans Am without license plates, was found on race track grounds, said Gustavo Romero Meza, chief of the state judicial police in Baja California. The car, seen leaving the murder scene on the day of the killing and eventually traced to the alleged murderers, was a key clue in the case, police said. The car was also seen following Felix and stationed near his home in the days before the murder, police said.

The murder weapon, a 12-gauge shotgun, was also believed to be on race track grounds, authorities said.

Authorities raised the possibility that Vera may be holed up at the race track. Police had not searched the premises because there was no warrant, said Romero of the state police.

But Hank said police were free to search the racetrack grounds "anytime they want." He added, "I wish they would just come and talk to me . . . . I want to get this cleared up."

Hank said his first contact with the police in connection with the case was a telephone conversation late Saturday night.

Hank, an industrial engineer by education, arrived at the historic track almost three years ago; he soon embarked on a large-scale expansion and remodeling of the premises. Before coming to Tijuana, Hank worked with various family companies and owned a series of pet shops and aquatic shows. Hank, who is married and the father of three children, is a devoted animal lover and an avid collector of wild cats, birds, snakes and other animals, many of which are on display at the track or in his office here.

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