Modesto-area drug cartel raid tied to suspected double homicide

pguerra@modbee.comJanuary 30, 2014 

Searches continued Thursday in association with a raid targeting a drug cartel, with deputies looking at one site for evidence in a Modesto missing persons case that authorities believe turned into a double homicide.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said his teams helped federal authorities with Wednesday’s raid, which involved searches at numerous locations in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties. He said Thursday that searchers remained at two locations, including one on Tuolumne Road south of Modesto associated with the disappearance of two men in 2010.

Luis and Jose Villa Rubio were reported missing in April of that year. The two last were seen in Modesto. Sgt. Ivan Valencia of the Modesto Police Department confirmed the matter is classified as a missing persons case.

An affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed in federal court identifies the Tuolumne Road property as associated with Francisco Felix, one of those arrested Wednesday. According to the complaint, the property is “associated with a suspected drug cartel-related double homicide that occurred in 2010. The victims of that homicide, Jose and Luis Villa Rubio, have not been located. Francisco Felix remains a suspect in that homicide investigation.”

Valencia said he did not have any information on how the case developed into a potential homicide.

Christianson did confirm that authorities developed information that the Tuolumne Road site was tied to the Villa Rubio case. But as of Thursday afternoon, the sheriff said, no evidence had been found.

Christianson also said he could not say specifically why authorities consider the brothers dead, but said missing persons cases in general develop along various paths.

“It depends on the facts of the case,” the sheriff said, noting that in many cases, adults who have gone missing leave of their own free will. Detectives will check into the backgrounds of the missing, as well as their families and associates.

When clues are hard to come by, they will reach out to the public for tips, often through local media. That did not happen in this case.

A Bee search found a single story on the case, a 2011 story in Spanish on the website ElUniversal.com.mx. That story says the brothers left their home in Culiacán, Mexico, to seek work in the United States. Jose, 27 at the time he disappeared, left behind a wife and two children. His brother, 20 in 2010, followed his brother in search of a better job.

El Universal quoted the men’s mother, Rosamelia Lopez Rubio, saying she had not heard from her sons and had tried to hire a private detective agency to track down their whereabouts.

Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said she could not provide any information on the Villa Rubio case; though Felix and six others made initial appearances in federal court Thursday, none was charged with homicide. They, along with an eighth defendant who appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday, face drug charges related to the manufacture and distribution of marijuana and methamphetamine.

Bee Senior Information Specialist Karen Aiello contributed to this report. Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.

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