Allegedly on the lam for 24 years, a Centralia murder suspect was taken into custody Wednesday in a field where he worked near Aromas, Calif., by an agent with a U.S. Marshals Service task force in Seattle.
Carlos Vidal Guiterrez, 54, was booked 1 p.m. into the San Benito County Jail in Hollister, about 95 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Centralia police accuse Guiterrez of first-degree murder for the Oct. 25, 1986, death of Efren J. Triana, 23, in the 100 block of West Main Street, outside the former La Adeleta Tavern.
"I thought for a long time they’d never catch the son-of-a-gun," Cornelio Triana, the victim’s older brother, said Wednesday evening from his home in northwest Centralia.
Spurred by a "most wanted" article he read in The Chronicle June 19, 2010, deputy U.S. Marshal Leland Rakoz said he notified Centralia police he was beginning his own investigation into Guiterrez’s whereabouts as part of his unit’s task of hunting down violent fugitives in the Northwest.
"I’m pretty sure we got the guy Centralia wanted," Rakoz said.
Rakoz detained Guiterrez peacefully.
"I think it was just a total surprise for him," said Rick Ploof, supervisor of U.S. Marshals Service criminal investigations in Seattle.
Last June, retired Centralia police detective Tracy Wiese unveiled new drawings of Guiterrez’s suspected aged appearance with the help of Tacoma police.
Wiese, who retired in 1992, could not be reached for comment.
Guiterrez will be charged in Lewis County Superior Court.
"Hopefully within the next month we’ll be able to extradite him up here," Centralia police Officer John Panco said.
Guiterrez allegedly shot Triana once in the head and three times in the back following an argument over a woman just before 1 a.m. outside the La Adeleta Tavern.
Cornelio Triana said witnesses saw his brother get shot in the back after he turned away from a fight with a suspect who had pulled a gun.
Cornelio Triana said his brother was 12 when he came to Centralia from Mexico. He is survived by two other brothers in the Centralia area — Roy Triana and Manuel Triana — and two sisters in California and one sister in Mexico. He was not married and did not have kids.
Cornelio Triana, 69, said he did not know Guiterrez before the shooting and does not believe his brother knew him.
Guiterrez was 29 at the time of the shooting. Police say his residence is listed in Hollister.
"This guy had a bunch of aliases," said San Benito County Jail Chief Edward Escamilla, reading from Guiterrez’s search warrant, which also listed him as going by Sertio Moreno Cerrilos, Seti Guiterrez, Carlos Kiros Guiterrez and Roberto Vidal Guiterrez.
Escamilla said Guiterrez had one previous arrest in San Benito County: driving while under the influence of intoxicants in 2005.
In June, Wiese said he had been unable to confirm Guiterrez’s identity with documentation from Mexico. Wiese had a suspect’s fingerprints at the time.
Efren J. Triana’s death is one of four unsolved murders in Centralia.
Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg said last June Guiterrez had been tracked once to various Eastern Washington communities, but the trail had run cold in Mabton.