A convicted child killer who escaped from a New Mexico prison and was recently captured in Mexico had become an assassin for the hyper-violent Zetas cartel, authorities said Friday.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler told reporters at a conference of governors of U.S. and Mexico border states in Albuquerque that Edward Salas was known to authorities as a sicario— a name commonly used to describe a cartel-hired hit man.
But it was unclear just how many assassinations —if any — he might have committed, Mexico officials said.
Salas, who was on the U.S. Marshals Service’s most wanted list, was taken into custody Thursday in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, outside a convenience store after a four-year international manhunt, according to New Mexico and Mexico officials.
Salas escaped from Curry County Detention Center in Clovis in August 2008 with seven other inmates by creating a hole in a ceiling. He was later spotted in Texas and had been on the run ever since.
At the time of his escape, Salas was serving a life sentence plus 56 years for his role in the murder of 10-year-old Carlos Perez on Sept. 5, 2005.
The boy was shot in the head while sleeping in his bedroom in Clovis just one day before his 11th birthday. Authorities said Salas and three accomplices fired nine bullets into an apartment window.
Gov. Susana Martinez said officials were working to extradite Salas to New Mexico as quickly as possible, and praised Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Horacio Duarte Jaquez, who helped track down Salas and 32-year-old Noe Torres, who was charged in the child’s slaying but fled before trial.
“I asked Gov. Duarte for his help in bringing (these) monsters to justice,” said Martinez. “And he was happy to cooperate.”
Torres was arrested by Mexican officials in January.
Duarte, who was in Albuquerque for the governors’ border conference, said the capture of the two fugitives showed that U.S. and Mexican authorities are working closely together.
The governors from several Mexican states, as well as Martinez and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday wrapped up two days of meetings in Albuquerque that touched on everything from economic partnerships and health care to border violence.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal