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Fugitive finally nabbed after nearly 50 years on the lam

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

FBI agents arrested Luis Archuleta, also known as Larry Pusateri, at this home in Española on Wednesday. Archuleta had escaped from prison in Colorado in 1974 and had been living as a fugitive since, authorities say.

SANTA FE – Daril Cinquanta is a competitive man.

The retired detective from the Denver Police Department made a career out of solving crimes and arresting people. He told the Journal “the chase” is the most exciting aspect of police work, which is mainly just “cops and robbers.”

But for 46 years, Cinquanta had been unable to find the man who shot him in 1971 and got away with it – that is, until a few days ago.

FBI agents arrested Luis Archuleta, whose real name is Larry Pusateri, at his home in Española on Wednesday, the end result of a month-long investigation between the FBI and the Española Police Department.

Luis Archuleta

For Cinquanta, it was a satisfying result to what’s been a long and often frustrating investigation.

He first encountered Archuleta, now 77 years old, during a routine stop on Oct. 3, 1971, his rookie year as a Denver police officer. During the stop, Cinquanta said he told Archuleta to get out of his car and saw the man reach for something in his pocket.

“I punched him in the face … That was a stupid move,” Cinquanta said, adding he saw a gun just before he was shot in the stomach.

While Cinquanta recovered from his wounds, Archuleta fled to Mexico, where he was soon arrested by federal officials for trafficking drugs in 1971, the FBI’s criminal complaint states. Archuleta said he had shot a policeman in Denver and was then extradited to the U.S. to face trial and sentenced to serve nine years in prison for the crime.

He didn’t stay behind bars long.

A year into his sentence, Archuleta and another inmate, Sidney Riley, were taken to Colorado State Hospital in Pueblo for medical appointments, the complaint states. While Archuleta was in the restroom, an accomplice handed him a gun, which he used to tie up two correctional officers.

Archuleta and Riley fled the hospital, jumped in a getaway car outside and drove off. It was Archuleta’s second escape from a prison. His first prison escape was in 1971 in California.

Cinquanta said the 1974 prison break reminded him of “a Hollywood movie script,” and that he was impressed with what Archuleta pulled off – not that he wasn’t upset.

“It pissed me off – so I started looking for him,” he said.

Cinquanta said he started off by knocking on doors and calling Archuleta’s family and friends, trying to talk to anyone who might have known Archuleta before he fled or knew where he was. Usually, he’d hit a dead end.

“You can’t believe the rocks I turned over to get somebody motivated to give him up,” he said. “It was very difficult.”

He went on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” twice in hopes of finding out more information, but gained no leads from the appearances.

Finally, a source called him on June 24 of this year to tell him where Archuleta had been all this time: he was in Española under the name “Ramon Montoya.”

Cinquanta soon found out “Ramon Montoya” had been arrested in 2011 for a DWI in Santa Fe County. He made a phone call to Española police, who called the FBI.

Little is known about what Archuleta had been doing for nearly 50 years in Española. Cinquanta said Archuleta had a fake Social Security card and driver’s license.

FBI agents interviewed Darlene Montoya, who had been married to Archuleta in the late 1970s, soon after he fled Colorado, the complaint states.

They lived together in Pojoaque, but soon divorced because “he was mean and violent,” the complaint states. Darlene Montoya also alleged Archuleta molested a young relative.

On June 29, investigators talked to his son, Mario Montoya, who said his father confessed five years ago to shooting a Denver police officer, the complaint states. Mario Montoya said his father claimed his real last name was “Pusateri” and that he had connections to the Italian mafia.

One month later, FBI agents finally arrested Archuleta, who denied the claims and maintained he was indeed Ramon Montoya, Cinquanta said.

Archuleta had been living with Esther Chacon in her Española home. When the Journal visited the home, a woman identifying herself as Chacon’s daughter said they had no idea about Archuleta’s past.

“He’s been around for like 23 years,” she said. “Never any reason to raise an eyebrow, for us to even be suspicious of him for anything.”

The daughter said Archuleta’s been disabled for years and that the family would continue to stand by him, adding that “everybody has a past in this life.”

“Why don’t you guys investigate the cop that got shot?” the daughter asked. “Have you guys looked into him, that son of a (expletive)?”

Cinquanta does have a checkered career as a police officer. He and another officer faced 17 felony charges in 1989 for perjury, doctoring evidence and staging crime scenes, according to newspaper articles from the time. Cinquanta was fined $2,000 and served a year of probation.

He has run his own private investigation firm since then, working for clients like the Church of Scientology, according to an article in Westword, an alternative weekly in Denver.

For Cinquanta, the end to the decades-long search for Archuleta has been exhilarating. He said he now wants to talk with the man he’s chased down all these years.

“I’m gonna congratulate him … that was a hell of a job staying hidden for 46 years,” he said.

He said the investigation was just another case of “cops and robbers” – and now, he’s won.

“I never gave up,” he said. “Now, I don’t have anything to do.”

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