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Editorial: U.S. must get justice in brutal Denny’s robbery

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For four years, Francisco Melgar-Cabrera has escaped American justice. And Stephanie Anderson has been dead. The first half of that equation needs to change, because the second part can’t.

Melgar-Cabrera, a suspect in the June 20, 2009, fatal robbery of the Denny’s on Coors NW, remains on the lam in El Salvador.

In the years since the breakfast-crowd shooting:

♦ Melgar-Cabrera’s brother has almost completed his four-year sentence for aiding in his escape and is set to be deported and rejoin his fugitive sibling.

♦ Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to 35- and 40-year sentences, though competency questions have delayed one being handed down.

♦ And federal prosecutors have decided not to go for the death penalty against Melgar-Cabrera’s co-defendants.

That last item is fine with Anderson’s family — her mother, Priscilla Garcia, says they don’t believe in capital punishment and “understood that there might not be enough evidence for a death penalty. We were hoping for life in prison.” As for the other results, not so much.

Federal officials say they know where Melgar-Cabrera is in El Salvador. They need to consider dropping the death penalty in his case and adhering to a 70-year sentencing cap if it will get Salvadoran officials to approve an arrest warrant and help bring him to justice. He’s 29, and incarcerating him until he’s 99 — if he makes it that long — and then kicking him out of the country seems reasonable.

And if El Salvador still balks, perhaps U.S. officials should reconsider the $41.8 million in bilateral assistance the Obama administration requested pre-sequestration for that country.

Four years have passed since the 34-year-old Anderson, who was working to become a pharmacy technician, was shot and killed for simply going to work to help realize her professional dream. Federal officials need to do what’s necessary to bring the last defendant in her senseless death to justice.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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