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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Police Take Murder Suspect Charged in 1991 Into Custody

Police Take Murder Suspect Charged in 1991 Into Custody


A man who illegally left the country and lived in El Salvador for three decades is back in court, facing allegations that he murdered his wife.

At a press conference, Fairfax County Police officers said that the defendant was charged with a fatal stabbing in 1991 in West Falls Church.

Police said the man, who was then 24 years old, fled the country through the southern border with the help of a smuggler, and went to El Salvador. At the time, El Salvador had no provisions to extradite suspects sought by the U.S.

Local authorities arrested the man in 2022 when he tried to enter Costa Rica. After a lengthy extradition process, he was brought back to the U.S. and is now being held at the Fairfax County jail while he awaits trial.

“He avoided accountability for something he did nearly 33 years ago,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “We’ve never forgotten the family. We’ve never forgotten the seriousness of this crime.”

Virginia’s Speedy Trial Law

We know what you’re probably thinking. Surely a thirty-plus year delay between arrest and trial violates Virginia’s speedy trial law.

Indeed, under Section 19.2-243, defendants are “forever discharged” if their trials don’t begin within five months (jail cases) or nine months (bond cases). However, a number of exceptions apply, such as:

  • Defendant’s insanity,
  • Witness unavailability,
  • Separate trial (because the process must start over),
  • Systemic delays,
  • Defendant’s failure to appear,
  • Hung jury (because the process must start over),
  • Natural disasters, and
  • Defense-requested delays.

If an exception applies, the clock doesn’t reset. Instead, the Speedy Trial Act becomes inapplicable. Any further delays don’t violate this law.

The probable cause/beyond a reasonable doubt gap often delays the process and triggers a Section 19.2-243 dismissal. Sexual battery is a good example.

Assume a rape kit proves Sarah and John had rough sex. Rough sex is probably unconsented sex, but that’s not necessarily the case. During settlement negotiations, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer points to Sarah’s interest in rough sex, maybe through conversations with witnesses or her internet search history. Because they need more evidence to prove the sex was unconsented, prosecutors send the case back to police investigators, and the case falls through the cracks.

A gap between the indictment date and arrest date might also trigger a speedy trial dismissal. Usually, authorities don’t diligently serve arrest warrants, except in major cases. More on that below.

So, Virginia’s speedy trial law probably doesn’t apply in the above case. In fact, there’s a good chance that further delays are coming, because of witness unavailability.

Arrest Warrant Statute of Limitations

Simply put, there is no arrest warrant statute of limitations. Warrants are valid until served. The process might take a few minutes, a few months, or in the above case, a few decades.

In old-time movies, a “dead or alive” warrant was a piece of paper. Nowadays, a warrant is usually a .pdf file. When a judge “signs” the warrant, it doesn’t go into a marshall’s waiting hand. Instead, the file goes into the computer. Then, when the defendant is detained for an unrelated matter, like a traffic or immigration violation, the warrant appears, and officers arrest the defendant.

Not all arrest warrants are created equally. Many police departments don’t serve standard arrest warrants issued by an out-of-state court, especially in misdemeanor cases. Too much paperwork is involved. However, most officers must serve bench warrants, since these documents have additional authority. Basically, a bench warrant is a combination of an arrest warrant and a court order.

So, if you have an active warrant, it’s most likely only a matter of time before you go to jail. Sometimes, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer can lift the warrant and place the matter on the court’s active docket, and the defendant need not spend a moment in jail. Other times, a lawyer partners with a bonding company, then arranges for the defendant’s voluntary surrender and immediate release.

Work With a Diligent Loudoun County Lawyer

There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Virtual, after-hours, and home visits are available.



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