DA: Torres captured after six days of surveillance

Noe Torres was arrested last Wednesday in Mexico, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler. Torres has been on the run since 2005, following the shooting of 10-year-old Carlos Perez.

Robin Fornoff

Noe Torres, one of Clovis’ and the nation’s most wanted fugitives since a 2005 shooting killed a sleeping 10-year-old boy, is in police custody.

Clovis District Attorney Matt Chandler confirmed Torres was arrested at 2 p.m. on Jan. 25 near a religious compound in Chihuahua, Mexico.

A man claiming to be Torres telephoned the Clovis News Journal on Jan. 25 to say he was in custody of Mexican authorities in Mexico City. The man claiming to be Torres said he’s been in contact with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and wanted to resolve “the issue peacefully.”

Martinez announced Torres’ capture and pending extradition at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, flanked by Chandler and surviving family members of Carlos Perez, the young boy killed when authorities say Torres and three accomplices fired nine bullets into a Clovis apartment window on Sept. 15, 2005.

Police say the shooting was retaliation for an argument that took place hours earlier between Clovis High School students Orlando Salas and Ruben Perez.

Eight bullets struck furniture inside the Perez home, but one struck Ruben’s sleeping little brother Carlos in the head.

Carlos died one day shy of his 11th birthday.

Torres said he did not turn himself in, but was arrested outside a religious compound where Martinez said he had sought refuge.

The CNJ agreed to delay publishing news of Torres’ arrest until Tuesday at Chandler’s request. The prosecutor said earlier publication could have placed law officers in danger and prevented related arrests.

He declined to discuss publicly details about those concerns.

Chandler said Torres was captured by Mexican and other unspecified officers after six days of surveillance and following a series of coincidences that resulted in top Mexican authorities pressuring officials to arrest Torres.

Chandler said Torres wrote a letter to Martinez that was screened by Henry Varela, a longtime friend of Chandler and director of the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services.

Varela, who Chandler said was familiar with the Torres case, contacted Chandler on Jan. 18.

Chandler said he asked Varela for a copy of the letter, then prepared it and a package on the Torres case for presentation to Martinez on Jan. 19. Martinez, coincidentally, was already scheduled to meet with Chihuahua’s Gov. Cesar Duarte the same evening to discuss economic development between New Mexico and Chihuahua.

In a telephone interview, Martinez said she discussed the Torres case with Duarte, who assured her that he would do all he could to bring Torres to justice.

Included in the package of information Martinez gave Duarte was the address of the religious compound.

Chandler declined to specify the name of the compound. He said six days after the meeting between Martinez and Duarte, law enforcement officers approached leaders of the compound, who said they didn’t have any information on Torres.

A short time after law enforcement left the compound, Chandler said, undercover officers spotted Torres leaving the compound on foot and arrested him under the outstanding U.S. warrant from Curry County.

Chandler said Torres was initially taken to a jail in the city of Chihuahua and later transferred to a jail he declined to specify, citing security concerns.

Chandler said extradition proceedings would begin and he estimated Torres would be returned to U.S. soil within 60 to 90 days.

Martinez, in a telephone interview with CNJ, described the letter from Torres as “very arrogant, while asking me to dismiss charges against him.” She said she was unsure what Torres may have been thinking, noting she specialized in child homicides during her 25-year career as a district attorney in Dona Ana County prior to being elected governor.

“He murdered a 10- year-old boy,” said Martinez, adding her response to Torres was “by making sure he was arrested and making sure the current system of justice works like it should.”

“At the end of the day,” said Martinez, “this is about Carlos and his family, not about some public officials doing their job.”

Edward Salas and Demetrio Salas, along with friend David Griego, have been convicted in connection with the boy’s death.

Edward Salas escaped from the Curry County jail on Aug. 24, 2008, and has not been captured.

Torres, now 32, had been fleeing law officers until last week.

Griego and Demetrio Salas are serving prison sentences in the New Mexico State Penitentiary.

Officials believe Orlando Salas was not at the shooting, though he was charged as an accessory and placed in a juvenile detention facility.

Ruben Perez was not injured in the shooting.

Torres, who has spoken with CNJ reporters via telephone multiple times since the shootings, says he is innocent of the murder charge against him. He said he was not present at the shooting and has witnesses who can provide him an alibi.

Witnesses who claim Torres was at the shooting are “lying, drug-addicted females,” Torres told CNJ in 2008 and 2009 phone calls.

He said his purpose for calling last week was to let area residents know he is working with the governor’s office and trying to prove his innocence.

It was not clear why he was allowed to make the phone call to CNJ from the jail in Mexico.

Editor David Stevens and Managing Editor Rick White contributed to this report.