Double-homicide case closed after 9 years - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Double-homicide case closed after 9 years

Suspected killer of 2 in Rancho Vistoso fled to Mexico, where he died

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Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:37 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

The crack of gunshots shattered the morning calm in Oro Valley on June 20, 2000.

As a pair of cars sped away from the parking lot of Honey Bee Canyon Park, two men were left lying in dirt, one dead, the other clinging to life. He, too, died moments later.

"I actually began CPR on him before the paramedics arrived," said Liz Wright, an Oro Valley police officer and communications specialist.

Wright was one of the first officers to respond that June morning in 2000, a day the Oro Valley Police Department remembers as the start of the largest criminal investigation in the town's history.

Englebert Parra-Coronado gunned down José Arturo Robles-Estrada, 23, and Ubaldo Martin Contreras-Figueroa, 35, after a long-standing dispute turned violent.

Almost immediately following the killing, Parra-Coronado fled to Mexico, where

he remained until May 2008. This spring, Mexican authorities found him shot to death under unknown circumstances.

Oro Valley police officials received word of the killing shortly afterward, but the double-homicide case remained open. Now, the department has officially closed the case, after receiving from the Mexican government official notification of Parra-Coronado's death in September 2009.

"From a department perspective, to have an open case is something you don't like to have," Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp said. "There's closure now for the victims' families and the police department."

Today, a pair of metal memorial signs and silk flowers put up by the victims' families marks the spot where the men perished.

The bad blood that led to Robles-Estrada's and Contreras-Figueroa's death had its genesis in a workplace dispute. All of the men had worked as masons. On the day of the killing, Parra-Coronado and three other men were working on the then-unfinished Honey Bee Canyon Park.

He and Contreras-Figueroa had clashed in the past, witnesses to the killing and co-workers told police.

The men's employer told police that Parra-Coronado had grown jealous of Contreras-Figueroa's success and skill as a mason. The employer told police he had to separate the men into different work crews to minimize the arguments.

But the verbal harangues turned violent one day when Parra-Coronado and another man fought Contreras-Figueroa, beating him badly, according to police interviews with witnesses.

Bent on retaliation, Contreras- Figueroa and another man later chased Parra-Coronado and a co-worker into the desert near Honey Bee Park, hurling rocks at the men as they fled.

The confrontations became so frequent and disruptive that Contreras-Figueroa and other man were fired from their jobs. But their termination did little to extinguish the burning rivalry.

On the morning of the murders, Contreras- Figueroa and Robles-Estrada appear to have intended to pay a similar visit to Parra-Coronado as he prepared for a day's work at Honey Bee Park. Contreras-Figueroa sped his truck into the dirt parking lot and skidded to a stop near Parra-Coronado and co-workers Alvaro Garcia, Joel Jimenez and Rosendo Sanchez.

As Contreras-Figueroa leapt from the pickup, Robles-Estrada joined him in the show of force. But the men were poorly equipped for the showdown with their archenemy.

"Unfortunately, he came to a gunfight with a shovel," Wright said, referring to the shovel found next to their bodies.

As Garcia, Jimenez and Rosendo fled to the desert, Parra-Coronado pulled out a .22 caliber pistol and ran straight toward Contreras-Figueroa and Robles-Estrada.

In later interviews with police, Jimenez said Parra-Coronado began to fire, first at Robles-Estrada, then at Contreras-Figueroa.

The other men then fled the scene, telling police they ran out of fear. Police were sure Parra-Coronado committed the killings alone, so the others were not charged with any crimes.

A fourth eyewitness also identified Parra-Coronado as the killer. He told police he watched Parra-Coronado gun down the two men in the parking lot while working on the roof of a nearby home.

"This guy was a cold-blooded murderer, Sharp said. "It was important that he be prosecuted, either here or in Mexico."

That's exactly what happened when the investigation went cold and police realized their suspect had fled to another country.

Working with an attorney from the State Attorney General's Office, the town was able to convince Mexican authorities to prosecute Parra-Coronado for the murders.

Mexican authorities issued an arrest warrant, but were unwilling to extradite Parra-Coronado to face trial and a possible death sentence in Arizona.

"Part of the nuance of this was that the victims were Mexican nationals," Sharp said.

Despite closing the case, Oro Valley has never pushed a murder prosecution through the full criminal justice system. Past murders in the town were deemed case-closed at the scene of the crime.

Earlier in 2000, the town suffered a double-murder suicide when an Oro Valley man turned a firearm on himself after killing his wife and grandson. The town had another murder-suicide in 1994.

Oro Valley may prosecute its first murder case later this month, when Paul M. Beam is scheduled to go to trial in Pima County Superior Court, accused of killing his live-in girlfriend Lisa M. Berrie in August 2008.

That case has a tentative start date of Nov. 17.

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