Federal authorities have joined the manhunt for an illegal immigrant mistakenly released from jail days before he became a suspect in a Mesa slaying, court documents show.
Ruben Perez Rivera, 22, may have fled to Utah in a “white mid-1980 Chevrolet car that resembles an old police car,” the day after the March 27 fatal stabbing of his cousin, Theodore Cruz Perez, 22, according to a criminal complaint filed April 3 in U.S. District Court.
The complaint alleges Perez fled to avoid a charge of second-degree murder filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on March 30, the day a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The federal complaint was filed by detective Dan Snodgrass, a deputy Maricopa County Sheriff who is on a special assignment with the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force.
Perez’ case has become a lightening rod in the debate on illegal immigration. It also led to a Tribune revelation that Maricopa County Superior Court workers were instructed not to ask newly arrested inmates about their citizenship — despite a voter-approved measure denying bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious felonies.
Perez had been jailed in lieu of $10,000 bail in connection with a March 4 kidnapping and assault of his girlfriend.
The county attorney’s office has argued he should have been held without bail under the measure, Proposition 100, which voters approved in November.
A Superior Court commissioner dropped the charges and released Perez on March 15 as the deadline to hold a preliminary hearing neared. However, a grand jury indicted him a few hours later and another judge set bail again at $10,000.
Maricopa County Jail wasn’t notified of the new charges at the time, and he was released March 16 to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and then deported that day.
Mesa police say he showed up at his girlfriend’s apartment at 1666 S. Extension and stabbed Cruz.
Police spokesman Johnny Lopez said he couldn’t comment on an open investigation.
The federal complaint stated, however, that a relative told Mesa police on March 31 that Perez fled to Utah to be with his mother and sister.