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Man wanted in 1998 Houston murder extradited from Mexico

HOUSTON – A private jet arrived at an air hangar in north Houston Wednesday evening. Onboard was not a star athlete or entertainer but a man whom law officers say was a fugitive wanted in a 20-year-old Houston murder.

Jesus Villareal Serna, 50, escorted from the plane in his beige inmate uniform and face mask, walked on Houston-area soil for what is believed to be his first time in years Wednesday.

The U.S. Marshals Office said Villarreal Serna, his brother Saul, Austin Moore, and Christopher Ibarra broke into an apartment in the 2400 block of Bammelwood Drive in April, 1998. Officials said three people were in the home and a shootout ensued.

Ibarra and a resident of the home, Ali Scott, were struck in the gunfire and killed. Moore was charged in 2007.

In July 2011, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit reexamined the case and developed new information that led them to name the brothers as new suspects in the case. While Saul Serna was taken into custody, Jesus Villareal Serna went on the run, officials said.

RELATED: Brothers charged in cold case slaying

Officers with the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force tracked him down in the city of Monterey in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.

“I cannot stress enough to you how much of an effort this took,” said T. Michael O’Connor, U.S. Marshal of the Southern District of Texas. “I mean think about it. 20 years’ worth and it makes us very proud that their dedication and commitment to pursue these individuals and bring them to justice is key.”

Villareal Serna went from the plane to an SUV waiting to take him to the Harris County Jail Wednesday evening.

In 2011, investigators named him as a suspect after reopening the case but he wasn’t arrested until February in Mexico. Extradition took three months but the U.S. Marshal said it was worth the wait.

"The history of the U.S. Marshals is you can run but you can't hide," O'Connor said. "So don't think that wasn't in the back of his mind. Possibly someday, somewhere, somehow they'll see the marshals. And today was the day."

Villarreal Serna is being held without bond. He is scheduled for a probable cause hearing at 2 a.m. Thursday.

Officials have been searching for Jesus Villareal Serna since at least 2011.


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