July 3, 2010 in City

Charge filed in Spokane shooting

But murder suspect deported in January
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Valdovinos
(Full-size photo)

The roommate of a man found shot to death near Green Bluff last fall has been charged with his murder.

But detectives haven’t arrested Miguel A. Rodriguez-Barbosa. The 19-year-old was deported to Mexico in January after being convicted of a felony related to marijuana found in the north Spokane home he shared with the victim.

Court documents supporting a first-degree murder charge against Rodriguez-Barbosa, 19, were ordered sealed June 24 by Superior Court Judge Michael Price, one week after Judge Ellen Kalama Clark approved a $1 million warrant for the suspect’s arrest.

The charge ends an eight-month investigation that was aided by fingerprint evidence and cell phone call records, but begins a search for a young man long considered a murder suspect who was not charged until months after his return to his home country.

Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan declined to comment on the case Friday.

Rodriguez-Barbosa is accused of killing Jesus Torres Valdovinos, whose body was found Oct. 18 wrapped in a blanket and plastic bags along Day-Mount Spokane Road. He’d been shot in the head.

Rodriguez-Barbosa told investigators that Valdovinos, 25, sold large amounts of marijuana and was training him to take over his business while he traveled to Mexico for a year, according to search warrants used to access phone and cell-tower records. Valdovinos’ supplier had been at the home at 623 E. Vicksburg Ave. to collect an $85,000 debt Oct. 17, the day investigators believe he was killed, according to the warrants.

Rodriguez-Barbosa was deported Jan. 20, nearly two weeks after he pleaded guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and was credited for 72 days already spent in jail. He had been living in the United States on a work visa cleaning repossessed homes; his felony conviction made him eligible for deportation.

“He didn’t disappear. We disappeared him,” said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

When federal officials learn of a convict eligible for deportation, “our responsibility is to proceed with efforts to remove them,” Kice said. “We can’t detain someone for the purposes of local prosecution.”

A first-degree murder charge was filed against Rodriguez-Barbosa on June 14 in Spokane County Superior Court.

The teenager spoke with investigators after Valdovinos’ body was found, but he was described as uncooperative.

“(Rodriguez-Barbosa) was adamant during interviews that no evidence would be found connecting him to the homicide or transport of the body,” according to a search warrant filed in January.

About the same time investigators prepared that warrant, Rodriguez-Barbosa’s fingerprints were found on plastic bags with Valdovinos’ body. Detectives discovered a phone number Rodriguez-Barbosa called nine times after Valdovinos was killed. Valdovinos’ phone showed about 34 calls to the same number between Oct. 3 and Oct. 19, according to a search warrant filed in January. Six were incoming calls made after Oct. 17.

According to search warrants, Rodriguez-Barbosa told investigators he’d seen Valdovinos’ marijuana supplier leave the home Oct. 17 after receiving $60,000 to cover a drug debt and $25,000 for a vehicle debt. He told investigators he left for the night and returned the next morning to find Valdovinos missing.

Also missing was a loveseat, which investigators never found, but Rodriguez-Barbosa claimed it had been thrown out weeks before after hot sauce stained it.

The teen also said a hole in the ceiling above where the loveseat had been, which detectives believe was caused by gunfire, had been there for months. But according to court documents, several witnesses said they’d never seen the hole and claimed the loveseat had been there the morning of Oct. 17.

A man previously described by sheriff’s officials as a person of interest in the case, 28-year-old Marco Antonio Noriega-Lopez, was arrested on a drug charge in December after investigators discovered a series of phone calls Rodriguez-Barbosa made to him Oct. 17. Prosecutors dismissed the charge June 23 but can refile.


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