File photo Edward Salas, 25, was convicted in 2008 of killing 10-year-old Carlos Perez and has avoided capture for a year since escaping from the jail.
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A year has passed since Edward Salas slipped through the roof of the jail with seven others and was secreted away in the trunk of a car.
But local authorities say time won’t affect their determination to bring Salas to justice.
The search has not stopped.
In fact it is alive and well and, “continuing very actively,” Curry County Undersheriff Wesley Waller said.
“We are still receiving tips and information.”
Friday, the sheriff’s office received a half-inch thick stack of tips generated from the national television program America’s Most Wanted.
Salas, 25, is the last of eight who escaped from the jail last Aug. 24 to remain at large.
He may also be the most violent.
Salas was convicted in the killing of 10-year-old Carlos Perez of Clovis, who was shot in the head as he lay sleeping in his own bed.
“He’s (Salas) maintaining a very low profile (and) avoiding trouble and detection at all costs,” Waller said.
Waller said investigators still believe Salas is receiving help from family or friends to avoid detection.
Several tips have proven credible. Waller said there have been confirmed sightings, leading law enforcement to monitor several locations in the southwest and Mexico.
He declined to identify specific locations.
U.S. Marshals, Texas Rangers, Justice Department and other branches of law enforcement have been extremely helpful in carrying out the search in other regions, he said.
District Attorney Matt Chandler said his office recently completed an extradition agreement with Mexico. The new pact will enable Salas’ arrest and return to the U.S. in the event he is found in Mexico.
“This allows the United States government and foreign governments to work very closely together,” Chandler said.
The same process has been completed for the arrest of Noe Torres, Salas’ co-defendant, who has been on the run since Perez was shot and killed in September 2005.
Prosecutors say the actual target of the killing was Perez’ older brother, Ruben. They say Ruben Perez and Salas’ brother, Orlando Salas, got into and argument at Clovis High School.
Prosecutors say Salas recruited his older brothers Demetrio Salas and Edward Salas, who along with David Griego and Noe Torres began to search for Ruben Perez.
Police say the defendants found Ruben Perez’s apartment in Clovis and together fired nine gunshots into Carlos’ and Ruben’s bedroom window.
Although Ruben was unharmed, one bullet struck Carlos in the head.
Salas was one of the few among a group of eight inmates who had a plan to stay free after scaling pipes in a plumbing shaft and escaping through a small hole cut in the roof of the jail.
Investigators accuse Abundio Valdez and Velma Valdez, relatives by marriage, with helping Salas by providing him supplies. Abundio Valdez is also accused of transporting him and another inmate to Texas within an hour of the escape.
Waller said investigators believe once in Texas, Salas received further assistance, something being investigated by Texas authorities.
Police believe Torres is also hiding in Mexico. Torres has been on the run since being charged, police say.
Asked by the Clovis News Journal if Salas and Torres might be together, Chandler declined comment.
Prior to receiving international clearance, law enforcement was unable to search beyond U.S. borders for Salas or Torres.
“Law Enforcement including local law enforcement, state law enforcement, the Department of Justice and now even Mexican national authorities are committed to making sure that these individuals are apprehended and returned to New Mexico in order to allow the judicial process to further its course,” Chandler said.
“That commitment will remain steadfast until the mission is accomplished.”
Chandler said authorities are also continuing to get the word out.
Coverage by America’s Most Wanted — with half-a-dozen episodes mentioning Salas and Torres to-date — has helped generate tips and reaches audiences in 33 countries.
Waller said investigators have reason to believe Salas has gained weight since the escape and regularly changes facial hair, “In attempts to avoid detection or recognition.”