Alfredo Lopez Cruz
HAMILTON — It could be as long as a year before Alfredo Lopez Cruz is brought back to the United States to face trial for allegedly kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old Hamilton girl, Butler County Sheriff’s officials said today, March 23.
Sheriff Richard K. Jones said it could be 6 to 8 months before Cruz, who is being detained in Mexico City, is extradicted to the U.S. But if Cruz, 28, fights extradition, it could take a year or longer, Jones said.
Butler County’s most wanted suspect was apprehended in Mexico on March 18 after evading authorities for more than five years, according to sheriff’s officials.
Jones said Cruz’s identity has been proven. The man — wanted for the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old Hamilton girl on Father’s Day 2005 — faces a five-count indictment on rape and kidnapping charges.
The arrest was the culmination of a 5½-year investigation and manhunt that involved the sheriff’s office fugitive division, Hamilton Police Department, Butler County Prosecutor’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice.
For years, Deputy Paul Newton tracked Cruz, who was in the country illegally at the time of the offense. Investigators believed that Cruz had fled the U.S. back to Mexico, and information obtained late last week and on Friday led authorities deep inside the Mexican border.
The Mexican Federal Police took Cruz into custody without incident on March 18. He is being held without bond in Mexico City, pending positive identification and extradition to the U.S.
Jones praised Newton for his dedication to the case.
“All he does is look for people who cannot be found,” Jones said. “He can find a needle in a barn full of hay.”
In June 2005, Cruz allegedly snatched a 9-year-old girl off of the bicycle she was riding and took her to a home on Sycamore Street, where he raped her. The girl later escaped, ran home naked and told family members she had been hurt by a man near there, according to police records.
Public outrage over the alleged crime sparked a week of unrest in the 4th Ward neighborhood and heightened racial tensions there. The Sycamore Street home where the alleged rape occurred was razed after being vandalized and twice set on fire.
“Maybe the victim can get some justice now,” said Newton, who has been hunting fugitives for 13 years. Over the past five years, Newton said his unit has communicated with federal and Mexican officials through email and text messages as information trickled in concerning Cruz’s possible whereabouts.
“A couple of times, we were close,” Newton said of apprehending Cruz. “He doesn’t know how close we were.”
The alleged victim, now 14 and no longer living in Hamilton, has been told of Cruz’s arrest, Hamilton police Chief Neil Ferdelman said. “Nobody stopped on this one,” Ferdelman said, praising the authorities involved.
Residents who live near rape scene cheer news of fugitive suspect’s capture in Mexico
Sycamore Street residents cheered and breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday upon hearing Alfredo Lopez Cruz — Butler County’s most wanted criminal — was under arrest.
The reported rape set off a week of unrest in the 4th Ward neighborhood and heightened racial tensions. Some Hispanics and Latinos feared for their safety. And the home in the 700 block of Sycamore Street where the incident allegedly took place was burned to the ground by arsonists.
“I am so glad; you have no idea how relieved everyone in this neighborhood will be,” said Barbara Elliott, who has lived on Sycamore Street for 23 years. “For a long time, I was disappointed that he’d gotten away with it.”
Elliott said the mood of the neighborhood changed after the incident.
“It was so tense, you could cut it with a knife,” she said, calling the neighborhood “scary.”
“It used to be that you could leave your door unlocked and sleep at night. You can’t now,” she said.
Ferdelman said police have worked hard the past five years to better the neighborhood through communication.
“We have repaired a lot of the damage that was done,” Ferdelman said, citing community-oriented policing efforts that have built understanding and trust. “It was a particularly brutal crime. It made people feel vulnerable, and their children were vulnerable.”
Cathy Hester, executive director of Living Water Ministries Inc., which sits adjacent to the crime scene, said the neighborhood was deeply affected.
“ She was a beautiful young girl,” Hester said. “I believe in my heart that ... justice will be done.”
Melody Thompson, a Sycamore Street resident, said she was a girlfriend of the victim’s father at the time of the incident.
“So much happened after; she was taken away, and he went crazy,” Thompson said. “The neighborhood was in an uproar.”
Thompson said she was close to the victim despite not being the child’s mother.
“My heart is at ease,” she said. “I didn’t think they’d ever catch him.”
Sherrie Thompson added: “We might not throw a party, but everyone’s celebrating in our hearts.”
Charlotte Owens was clapping and telling neighbors of Cruz’s arrest Tuesday afternoon.
“You do the crime, you pay the time,” Owens said. “That little girl can relax now.”
The girl, now 14, has been adopted and lives in the Greater Cincinnati area, sheriff’s officials said.
The victim’s father and grandmother have since moved to Oxford, neighbors said.
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