Suspect's gang ties and language barriers made case difficult to crack, police say
The suspect who faces the death penalty in a July 2008 double homicide is charged with slayings in Cincinnati and North Carolina, and has known ties to a violent multinational gang, police and prosecutors say.
Fairfield police Chief Mike Dickey said 22-year-old Hector Alvarenga Retana was identified as a suspect in the July 13, 2008, slayings around the time of another similar killing nearly three weeks later in Cincinnati.
“The investigation was complicated by language barriers and by the fear of retaliation. That is very real in a case like this,” Dickey said. “Once we identified the suspect, putting together sufficient evidence to obtain an indictment was difficult.”
Retana was indicted Thursday, June 24, on capital murder charges by a Butler County grand jury in connection with the deaths of Evelvin Osveli Morales, also known as “Osbelin,” age 20, and Marlon Enamorado-Gomez, also known as “Juan Carlos,” age 21.
Dickey and Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper said Retana is part of MS-13, a notoriously violent gang that has infiltrated several cities in the U.S.
“We know Retana has been a transient, locating in several cities throughout the country, and has had other run-ins with the law,” Dickey said. “We do not believe he was in Fairfield long and his movement throughout the U.S. made him difficult to track.”
Piper said the victims in the case may have been part of a different organization.
“This shooting was not necessarily random,” Piper said. He added the MS-13 gang is known for killing witnesses. Thus details about the case are being heavily guarded in statements from police and prosecutors.
The prosecutor, who has learned about the gang in legal and law enforcement conferences, said MS-13 is different than a lot of other gangs, such as the Crips and Bloods that occasionally pop up in the area, because its members “like to stay under the radar.”
While other gangs are often showy, flaunting their presence, MS-13 members “try to be low profile and maintain their control with intimidation and violence,” Piper said, noting murder, gang rape, assaults and dealing in the heroin trade from Mexico to the U.S. are among its known criminal activities.
He added he has been told MS-13 controls some border gates so people have to pay the gang a fee to get into this country.
Although Retana has been charged in the Fairfield slayings, Butler County prosecutors will have to wait in line before he can have a trial here.
Retana, a native of El Salvador, also is charged in Hamilton County in connection with a July 27, 2008, fatal shooting outside The Corinthian in Cincinnati, and is set to go on trial Nov. 8 for a slaying in Charlotte, N.C.
Dickey said the investigation that ultimately led to charges filed against Retana involved a lot of coordination with multiple agencies, including the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and law enforcement in California and North Carolina.
“We’ve known about him for a long time, it was just a matter of getting things put together,” Dickey said. “We have almost 1,000 staff hours invested in this investigation. It was just the dogged persistence of the investigators, most notably Lt. (Kevin) Haddix and Detective (Rebecca) Ervin, that brought this case to indictment.”
According to Fairfield police, in the early morning hours of July 13, 2008, Retana shot and killed the two Honduran natives outside the former Casa Tequila restaurant and night club in the 6700 block of Dixie Highway.
Morales and Enamorado-Gomez were both in the front seat of a parked vehicle in the lot of an adjacent fast-food restaurant when another vehicle approached and police said Retana opened fire, shooting both men in the head. Retana also is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting Enamorado-Gomez’s brother Jimmy, 19, who was in the back seat of the vehicle.
Fairfield City Councilman Mike Oler said Thursday he is thrilled someone is answering for the two deaths that occurred in front of a Fairfield restaurant two years ago.
“I’m ecstatic that we have obtained indictments,” said Oler. “I know it’s been a long, long investigation. The officers involved in the investigations should be commended in their patience and due diligence.”
Oler, a former Fairfield police officer, publicly stated last year he believed the slayings were gang-related.
“I’ve said all along that from intelligence reports that there were MS-13 people involved in it,” Oler said. “Unless there was something detrimental to the case, I think (the police) should have come out with that information, especially when the mayor and myself were talking about gangs coming through the area and Fairfield.”
Piper said after Retana’s November trial in Charlotte, N.C., he then will be brought to Ohio. It is yet to be determined whether he would be tried first in Hamilton County or Butler County.
Meanwhile, investigators are continuing to interview witnesses, Piper said. The investigation is ongoing and Piper did not rule out the possibility of more charges.