Year in review’ Capture of two fugitives top story

The capture of two of the most notorious fugitives from justice for Clovis and the nation — accused child killer Noe Torres and convicted killer Edward Salas — dominated headlines in 2012.

The capture of both men some eight months apart ended years of international manhunts connected to the 2005 murder of 10-year-old Carlos Perez of Clovis, gunned down in his sleep shortly before his 11th birthday.

Both men were captured in Chihuaha, Mexico.

Torres, who has repeatedly protested his innocence, was caught Jan. 25 outside a religious compound after a series of coincidences starting from a letter he wrote appealing to Gov. Susana Martinez.

CNJ file photo

Noe Torres faces a murder trial.

Salas was taken down in the same Mexican state, where he was working as an assassin for the notorious Zetas drug cartel, according to District Attorney Matt Chandler. He had been on the run since August 2008, when he and seven other violent inmates escaped the Curry County jail in another incident that put Clovis in the national spotlight.

Salas remains in a Mexico jail awaiting extradition to Clovis. At the time of his escape, Salas was one day away from being transferred to a state prison to serve a life-plus-56-years sentence for his role in the murder of Perez.

Torres is awaiting a Jan. 28 jury trial in a state prison near Hobbs at the request of Chandler, who cited the Salas escape and numerous other issues at the Curry County jail.

The capture of both men was the culmination of years of dogged determination by local, state and federal law enforcement to bring justice for the killing of Perez, according to Chandler.

"So many law enforcement officers vowed to never give up on the search of these two international fugitives, and it all paid off in 2012," Chandler said.

Investigators say the Sept. 15, 2005, shooting was retaliation for an argument that took place hours earlier between Clovis High School students Orlando Salas and Perez's brother Ruben.

Chandler charged that Edward Salas and three other accomplices, including Torres, fired nine bullets into the window of an apartment. Eight bullets hit furniture but one struck Carlos in the head as he lay sleeping next to Ruben. Carlos died one day shy of his birthday.

Edward Salas, Demetrio Salas and a friend, David Griego, were convicted for their part in the murder. It is believed Torres fled New Mexico soon after investigators started digging into the gang-related slaying of young Perez six years ago.

Investigators believe at some point after Edward Salas' escape from jail, he and Torres were together in Mexico. Witnesses said Salas spent several months in Friona before fleeing to Mexico, according to U.S Marshals.

Torres continued to maintain his innocence in numerous telephone calls the authorities and, later the Clovis News Journal. Indeed, his letter to a stunned Martinez pleading for help set off a chain of events that eventually brought him back to Clovis to face trial.

Martinez described the Torres letter as "very arrogant, while asking me to dismiss charges against him." She said she wasn't sure what Torres was thinking since she specialized in child homicides during her 25-year career as a district attorney in Dona Ana County prior to being elected governor.

CNJ file photo
Edward Salas was convicted of murder before his 2008 jail escape.

"He murdered a 10-year-old boy," said Martinez, adding her response to Torres was "making sure he was arrested and making sure the current system of justice works like it should."

Torres' letter to Martinez was screened by Henry Varela, a longtime friend of Chandler and director of the Governor's Office of Constituent Services. Varela, who was familiar with the Torres case, contacted Chandler, who presented a package on Torres to Martinez.

Martinez, coincidentally, was already scheduled to meet with Chihuahua's Gov. Cesar Duarte the same evening to discuss economic development between New Mexico and Chihuahua.

Martinez said she discussed the Torres case with Duarte, who assured her that he would do all he could to bring Torres to justice.

Torres was captured six days later.

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