Jul 29, 2014

Alleged Killer Caught After 18 Years on the Run

Francisco Miranda—one of Pennsylvania's most wanted—has been arrested for a fatal stabbing that happened in 1994.

Alleged Killer Caught After 18 Years on the Run Alleged Killer Caught After 18 Years on the Run

BETHLEHEM, PA -- For nearly two decades, Francisco Miranda was on the run.

In 1994, Bethlehem police idenitfied him as their chief suspect in the death of Jorge Valazquez, who was stabbed in the heart in a parking lot near Aaron Street.

Then Miranda vanished, spending 18 years on Pennsylvania's Most Wanted list.

Until last week, that is, when police took Miranda—who had been living in the Dominican Republic—into custody.

That's according to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who announced Miranda's arrest at a news conference Monday morning. He said he and police are confident Miranda can still be tried.

"We believe that even though time has passed and this case is essentially 20 years old...we believe this case can successfully be prosecuted," said Morganelli, who was joined by Lt. Mark DiLuzio and Chief Jason Schiffer of the Bethlehem police.

According to police, Velazquez, 30, died after being stabbed during an altercation with Miranda on the morning of June 12, 1994.

Police say witnesses saw Miranda covered in blood following the fight. He also allegedly alluded to having been in a fight and made a "cutting motion" by his neck, Morganelli said.

Then Miranda vanished, Morganelli said.

A Northampton County judge issued a warrant for him on homicide and aggravated assault charges. There was also a federal warrant issued, and the FBI became involved in the search.

Police learned Miranda had gone to either Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, but by 2000, the investigation had been added to their list of cold cases.

Eight years later, police learned Miranda had been spotted in the Dominican Republic, and the search focused there.

On Nov. 27, 2012, Miranda was taken into custody by Domican police. Authorities spent the next few months working on extraditing him back to Pennsylvania, Morganelli said.

Last Friday, U.S. Marshalls turned him over to Bethlehem police. He is now in Northampton County Prison, Morganelli said.

He said DiLuzio deserves a lot of credit for keeping the investigation going, making sure witnesses were still available.

"It appears we have a good investigation, although it's an old investigation," Morganelli said.

He said Miranda was "cooperating" with police, although he declined to say whether that meant Miranda had admitted to the killing.

And what was Miranda doing for the last 18 years?

"Basically, living in the Dominican Republic," DiLuzio said, "and has he indicated to me last Saturday, looking over his shoulder."

Miranda's arrest means that three of the state's 10 most wanted fugitives have been captured. Of the remaining seven, one of them is connected to the Lehigh Valley: Stanley Obas, wanted in the 1997 torture murder of 13-year-old Richezza Williams in Easton in 1996.

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