A fugitive on the lam for 15 years made his first court appearance Monday on charges of gunning down a man in Tustin over a financial dispute.
Arraignment was rescheduled to June 1 for Juan Palacios, 59.
He was ordered extradited in March from his native El Salvador and was returned to Orange County on Thursday, said Tustin police Lt. Bob Wright.
Palacios is accused of fatally shooting 32-year-old Mario Cano Santamaria on Jan. 5, 2003, over a dispute that was financial in nature, Wright said. Palacios went to Santamaria’s apartment complex with a group of other people and the shooting ensued, he said.
Tustin detectives have a policy of checking up on cold cases at least once a month, and it paid off in this case as authorities tracked the suspect to El Salvador, Wright said. In 2014, El Salvador was asked to extradite Palacios, who was arrested in December 2016 and had been fighting extradition since then.
Santamaria’s family was “very happy” and “relieved” to hear of Palacios’ arrest, Wright said.
Palacios was charged in 2004 with one count of murder. If convicted, he would face at least 25 years to life in prison, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
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