PITTSBURGH – The suspect in an alleged rape and murder of a 16-year-old boy in Empalme Escobedo, Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2003 is fighting extradition to Mexico.
U.S. Magisterial District Judge Maureen P. Kelly issued a ruling Oct. 17 that there was sufficient evidence to recommend the extradition of Dylan Ryan Johnson, 30, of Nemacolin, to face the charges against him.
According to court documents, Johnson was transported to Chicago Dec. 15 to await extradition. His attorney, federal public defender W. Penn Hackney, took the only action available to Johnson and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to have Johnson returned to Pittsburgh for the district court to review the opinion and findings of Kelly. The court agreed to have Johnson returned.
Johnson is accused of raping and murdering Hilario Garcia Rosales in the Hotel Villa Empalm. A warrant for Johnson’s arrest was issued by Mexican authorities Dec. 8, 2003, but the Mexican government did not seek his extradition until July 8, 2011, according to the criminal complaint.
In his writ of habeas corpus, Johnson raised several evidentiary issues regarding the case against him. Johnson said Rosales body was found fully clothed, including his belt, pants and underpants, which would undermine the probable cause standard that a rape occurred. He made note that the hotel where the body was found is noted as a setting for sexual trysts and witnesses said Rosales entered the hotel voluntarily with someone referred to as “the gringo.” Johnson noted that three of the witnesses described the gringo as having blonde hair, although his hair is brown.
Johnson raised questions regarding the identification of a pickup truck, allegedly owned by Johnson, that brought Rosales to the hotel. He noted that the hotel routinely maintained a record of license plate numbers for vehicles but never presented documentation that proved the truck that brought Rosales to the hotel on the night of the murder matched the one on the truck owned by Johnson. He further went on to question the validity of witness identifications that were made utilizing a photo array that Johnson alleged was tainted. He claimed the array contained only one photograph of a man without facial hair and who was obviously the only “gringo,” Johnson himself.
He further goes on to make mention of a statement given by Alfredo Mandoze Palacios, a man who allegedly drove Johnson to the bus station several days after the murder occurred. Palacios allegedly told police that Johnson acted normally and Palacios did not notice anything odd in his behavior leading up to the day he took him to the bus station. Johnson said staying in a small town, going to the usual places one goes, and acting normally does not suggest one is a murderer or rapist and indicates strong circumstantial evidence of his innocence.
He alleged that he is not the person who accompanied Rosales to the hotel Sept. 7, 2003, and that there is sufficient evidence to the contrary for the court to rule against his extradition to Mexico.
In the opinion filed in October, Kelly noted that the authority of a magistrate judge serving as an extradition judicial officer is limited to determining an individual’s eligibility to be extradited. This is done by ascertaining whether the crime is an extraditable offense under the subject treaty; and whether there is probable cause to sustain the charge, Kelly said. The judge then certifies to the secretary of state, in this case Hillary Clinton, that the extradition is appropriate.
The only recourse to an individual seeking a challenge to a magisterial district judge’s extradition order is to file a writ of habeas corpus. Any response to Johnson’s writ of habeas corpus must be filed by Jan. 8.