Suspect In Deputy's Murder Released - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

09/04/03 - East Texas

Suspect In Deputy's Murder Released

by Wade Cameron

Lufkin police and federal agents on both sides of the border thought they had finally solved the murder of Captain Don Willmon with last week's arrest of Alvaro Rodarte. But he was released by a federal judge in Mexico Thursday, who ruled that the statute of limitations on the murder charge had lapsed.

This is how it happened:  Rodarte was booked for what the Mexican judicial system calls "regular murder", the equivalent to a murder charge in Texas. In Mexico, the statute of limitations for a regular murder charge is less than the 24 years that it's been since Willmon was killed.

Authorities here say Rodarte should have been charged with qualified murder, the equivalent to capital murder in Texas. The statute of limitations for a qualified murder in Mexico is considerably longer, and would have kept Rodarte in custody. The family of Don Willmon says they are saddened by the news, but say they will continue to believe Rodarte can be caught again.

"The sun will still come up tomorrow, and we will continue to live our lives and just believe that if he was caught once he can be caught again," said Gary Willmon, Don's Brother. "That's the hope we hang on to."

It's a hope that authorities here in East Texas want to make a reality.

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