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Suspect in N. Hollywood Death Arrested in Mexico

April 26, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man whom police sought for 16 years in connection with a North Hollywood slaying has been captured in Mexico and will be tried there for the crime, Los Angeles detectives said Thursday.

Merced de los Santos, 56, was charged with murder in 1986 after witnesses identified him as the man who shot an acquaintance, 26-year-old Francisco Esparza, during an argument in a parking lot.

Police Det. Vince Bancroft said authorities pursued De los Santos for years without success. Then in February 2001, a North Hollywood resident saw the case profiled on the television show "L.A.'s Most Wanted" and gave police an address in Mexico.

The following month, the Los Angeles Police Department's foreign prosecutions unit went to Mexico City and filed the case with the Mexican court, which issued an arrest warrant. Authorities ''continued checking various locations where he had been seen by witnesses, and eventually he showed up,'' Bancroft said.

De los Santos was arraigned on the murder charge Feb. 7 in federal court in the Mexican state of Nayarit, U.S. authorities said. He is to be tried in Mexico because he is a Mexican citizen, police said.

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