Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced that the work of the Foreign Prosecutions Unit had resulted in the arrests of Miguel Godinez, 33; Gilbert Godinez, also 33; and Luis Partida, 25. The victim and the suspects are all Mexican nationals.
Vargas Salvador came from a big family in Acapulco and has two sons, a friend said shortly after his death. He was in Montrose on a work visa for six months of the year, said Orlando Vargas Gerrero, speaking through an interpreter after his friend was murdered. He said Vargas Salvador always wanted to take care of his children and family and never planned to stay in the U.S. permanently, but to one day return to Mexico
Vargas Gerrero, a roofer, said he and his friend used to talk about the future often, and that Vargas Salvador was a good man who worked hard and loved life.
“He was my best friend in the world,” he said. “Mejor amigo del mundo.”
A witness to the shooting, Darlene Belarde, said the three men who killed Vargas Salvador had been looking for his brother. She said Vargas Salvador was trying to get into his girlfriend’s car to leave, but the men wouldn’t let him and shot him dead.
According to Montrose Police Commander Gene Lillard, there had been a verbal exchange inside the bar that continued into the parking lot as Vargas Salvador was trying to depart, and the exchange soon turned to gunfire. The victim died of two .45 caliber gunshot wounds to the head.
Lillard said that Detective Justin Perry was instrumental in the investigation, and worked closely with Luz Maria Shearer from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. They filed an Article IV of the Mexican Penal code, which allows for non-Mexican law enforcement agencies to request that Mexican authorities prosecute Mexican nationals who commit crimes in other countries but then flee to Mexico.
The case will be tried in Mexico, thanks to the provisions of Article IV, Lillard said.
The men were arrested in the Mexican state of Nayarit by Mexican law enforcement, according to the Attorney General. They appeared before a judge and were advised they faced charges of first-degree murder committed in a foreign country.
Suthers said he was pleased that the cooperation of the Montrose police, his office and the Mexican authorities led to arrests in the years-old case. The arrests in Mexico followed several days of surveillance to confirm the identities of the three men, he said.
“We look forward to the Mexican authorities bringing justice to the victims of this crime,” Suthers said in a statement. The Attorney General’s office has worked with state law enforcement to try cases in Mexico when appropriate, he added.
Having the three suspects tried in Mexico is good for taxpayers, Lillard said.
“We knew where they were because we had gotten information in Colorado and Mexico and put some stuff together,” he said, but Perry and Shearer pulled it all together.
“We don’t have to go down there, and that’s a huge savings to our taxpayers,” Lillard said. “The Mexican authorities have been cooperating and helped us a lot.”