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Oxnard Fugitive Is Extradited

Mexico turns over Raymundo Celis, wanted in the slaying of a man over a parking space, to Ventura County authorities.

March 16, 2004|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Mexican authorities have extradited an Oxnard fugitive wanted in Ventura County on suspicion of fatally shooting a man after an argument over a parking space last year.

Raymundo Sanchez Celis, 25, was arrested by Mexican police several months ago and turned over Friday to investigators with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. Celis was booked into Ventura County Jail and was being held on $1 million bail.

Celis is accused of shooting Miguel Angel Solis, 37, of Oxnard after Solis tried to break up a fight over a parking spot in front of an ice cream distribution company in Oxnard. Solis died at the scene in front of his 7- and 10-year-old daughters.

It took months of negotiations by Oxnard police, the Sheriff's Department, the FBI and the U.S. State Department to persuade Mexican officials to extradite Celis, who was wanted on suspicion of murder, corporal injury to a spouse, battery and drug sales. Mexican officials agreed to turn Celis over only after winning assurances that the slaying did not qualify for the death penalty.

The Mexican government does not recognize the death penalty, considering it cruel and unusual punishment. Law enforcement officials in the U.S. have long complained about Mexico's refusal to extradite suspects who seek haven for capital crimes south of the border.

But Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez said the Mexican government in this case was extremely helpful.

"We were thinking that this was going to end like so many of those cases where the suspect stays in Mexico," Lopez said. "But Mexican authorities were very good about letting us bring him back."

Celis is believed to have fled to Mexico shortly after the January 2003 shooting.

The incident began when Solis' brother, who drives an ice cream truck, pulled into the parking lot of the Oxnard warehouse and found a car blocking his designated parking spot.

The brother asked the driver of the car to move, and when the driver refused, the two began arguing. As the confrontation escalated, Solis arrived with his two daughters, got between the two men and broke up the fight.

The suspect then allegedly went to his car, got a gun, walked up to Solis and shot him in the chest.

Lopez said that Celis had started a new life in Mexico, opening a taco stand in Ensenada. That's where he was when Mexican police picked him up.

"He was just down there, enjoying life, going about his business," Lopez said. "I'm hopeful that we'll now be able to successfully prosecute the suspect and that the Solis family will get some type of justice."

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