ESCONDIDO (CNS) - A Mexican national was behind bars Friday on suspicion of gunning down a man during a North County birthday party 21 years ago, possibly to avenge an earlier slaying they blamed on the victim, police reported.
Escondido Police Department personnel took custody of 50-year-old Vicente Flores Benites at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday following the suspect's extradition from Baja California, EPD Lt. Craig Carter said.
On May 20, 1989, Benites and a cousin, Epifanio Flores, then 38, showed up, uninvited, at a house in the 700 block of East Pennsylvania Avenue in Escondido and confronted 41-year-old Margarito Navarette, who was attending a celebration for a girl's 15th birthday, police said.
Flores stabbed Navarette and fled, after which Benites allegedly shot the victim and ran off, according to police and prosecutors.
Officers arrested Flores several blocks away minutes later, but Benites escaped.
"Witnesses who were interviewed in 1989 said (Navarette), who was unarmed, was shot at point-blank range several times while seated on a sofa," the lieutenant said, adding that there were several dozen people present.
The assailants apparently held the victim responsible for the slaying of Benites' brother in Mexico several years earlier, authorities told reporters following the Escondido homicide.
Four years ago, cold-case detectives traced the fugitive to an address in Tijuana. On May 24 of this year, Benites was arrested there and taken to Mexico City, where he was held while extradition proceedings were under way.
Benites was booked into Vista Jail on suspicion of murder and held without bail.
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