LONG ARM OF THE LAW
Suspect in 20-Year-Old California Murder Case Apprehended in the Philippines
It was a horrific crime:
20 years ago this month, Lilian Ocampo Zuniga was stabbed to death in front
of her 5-year-old son inside a grocery store she owned in South Lake Tahoe,
California. She suffered more than 30 stab wounds.
The prime suspect? Her
ex-husband--Geronimo Mendoza Zuniga--reportedly angry at the break-up of
their marriage and her remarriage.
Shortly after the murder,
El Dorado County authorities issued an arrest warrant for Zuniga, but he
had already fled the country and was believed to be back in his native
A federal arrest warrant
was then issued, bringing the FBI into the case, but absent an extradition
treaty between the U.S. and the
Philippines, it looked as though justice for Lilian Zuniga would not
point in the case? Actually, there were two:
- An extradition treaty
between the U.S. and the Philippines was signed in the mid-1990s (ultimately
triggering an extradition request for Zuniga by El Dorado County authorities)
- A Filipino National
Police (FNP) officer who simply would not give up on the case.
its best. It was spring of 2004 when that FNP officer traveled
to California to attend an FBI-sponsored training course and to coordinate
one of his cases with the Los Angeles and San Francisco FBI Offices.
This officer was no stranger to us--he'd already worked a successful
case with the FBI's Assistant Legal Attache in Manila. While in California
the officer heard about the Zuniga case. He contacted us and pledged
his assistance to find Zuniga. Throughout the years, the South Lake Tahoe
Police Department and the FBI had continued to work the case and develop
leads of sightings on Zuniga in the Philippines--they shared this information
with the FNP officer.
The payoff. And
the officer was true to his word. With the assistance of our Legal Attache
Office in Manila--the Filipino National Police and the National Bureau
of Investigations located Zuniga and took him into custody--nearly 20 years
to the day after his former wife's brutal murder. Extradition arrangement
are currently underway.
Our thanks again to
our partners in the Philippines. Working together, making a difference.