SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - He is known by a half dozen names including Jessi Vega, Jesus Alonzo and Arturo Munguia. But to police in Utah, he is the accused killer who got away.
In November 1998, hunters found the body of 18-year-old Trisha Beristain just off the road in a pull out in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Former Salt Lake County Sheriff Detective and current State Medical Examiner Investigator Keith Stephens says Beristain had been fatally shot and then her body had been moved a few feet away from the shooting scene.
"It was a crime scene rich environment there. There were tire tracks, there were bullet casings, there were items of clothing, including a baseball cap with a name inside of it," said Stevens.
Police say the evidence, along with interviews with family members made it easy to identify the suspected killer as Trisha's boyfriend Jessi Vega. "We were able to identify the perpetrator, get criminal charges right away and start looking for the individual," said Stevens.
However, before police moved in to make an arrest, Vega, who they later learned was really Arturo Munguia, left Salt Lake City and flew to Chicago where he basically vanished. Stephens says the case still eats at him. "Once you work these cases and work them as hard as we work, I don't think you can't let them go," said Stevens.
And in reality it hasn't been let go. The U.S. Marshals service was recently asked to help find Munguia. ABC 4 spoke with Jim Phelps, a Supervisory U.S. Deputy Marshal about helping with the case. "You have a guy that's a jealous boyfriend who shots this poor gal in the chest and kills her. No logic behind it," said Phelps, who added that Munguia has connections in Seattle, Chicago, El Paso, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. ABC 4 asked Phelps how marshals go about catching a guy like Munguia
"These guys will be out there and make a mistake. He'll get comfortable and might say they're not going to find me. Its those mistakes that we look for," said Phelps. "We also have investigating tools we won't reveal."
As police wait for a mistake - Trisha's sister, who has already been waiting 12 years, will continue to hope for justice. "I want closure, I want them to capture him and make him do the time he needs for taking her life," she said. "I just hope really that he gets caught - that is what we are all waiting for."
If you have information on this case contact Unified Police at: http://updsl.org/
Or contact U.S. Marshals at: http://www.usmarshals.gov/district/ut/