José Juan Salaz was turned over to U.S. Marshals in Mexico Thursday and was flown to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
According to a report released by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday, the 38-year-old fugitive actually was arrested in Mexico in January 2013.
An American citizen, Salaz has lived in Mexico since crossing the border at Laredo only hours from the time he escaped the Garza East Unit on March 22, 1997, at about 9:40 p.m.
Salaz climbed over three 16-foot fences topped by razor wire and sprinted for the fence on the east side of the Chase Field Criminal Justice Center to make his escape.
According to the TDCJ press release, Salaz was serving three concurrent 35-year sentences for two counts of attempted murder of a police officer and aggravated kidnapping with a deadly weapon at the time of his escape.
Salaz was serving the sentences after being convicted for his part in an April 2, 1995, incident that took place in Houston.
He and a co-defendant, Geronimo Soto Alvardo, were convicted of kidnapping a Hispanic male at gunpoint and demanding a ransom.
Alvardo was given a life sentence and is still serving his sentence in Texas.
The Houston Police Department homicide team arranged for the ransom to be paid in exchange for the victim in the 7000 block of Lawndale in Houston.
After the victim was released, officers identified themselves and were arresting the suspects when Salaz and Alvardo opened fire.
One homicide sergeant was hit in his body armor and was not seriously hurt. Another officer was wounded in one hand.
Salaz suffered serious injuries when the officers returned fire. After recovering, he pleaded guilty in court.
Since making his escape to Mexico, Salaz had eluded capture south of the border until last year.
Investigators with the TDCJ’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Marshal Service worked with Mexican authorities and continued to chase leads that TDCJ sources said “spanned the globe.”
Salaz’s arrest and extradition marks an end to a long quest for justice.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.