ELKO — It’s been eight months since Eduardo Estrada was arrested in Mexico, but he’s yet to return to Elko and face trial for allegedly murdering Stephanie Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 29, was allegedly strangled by Estrada, her estranged husband, in her home on June 25, 2011. Two of her children were in the home at the time of her death.
Elko police identified Estrada, 33, as the sole suspect in the homicide and began searching for him. It was believed Estrada went to Mexico, where he has family.
Three years after Gonzalez’s death, Estrada was arrested on Oct. 26, 2014, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was apparently involved in a fight, which led to his arrest.
Estrada is in custody in a federal facility in Mexico City, according to Gonzalez’s mother, Lidia Cortes.
Cortes described hearing her daughter’s suspected killer had been apprehended as a very emotional experience. She was told she screamed when she heard the news, although she doesn’t remember doing that.
“I wasn’t sure I was hearing what they’d been telling me,” she said.
She’d heard it takes many years for murder suspects to be caught, and thought Estrada might never be captured.
“I had resigned myself to the fact that it was never going to happen,” Cortes said.
While Estrada’s arrest was a significant development in the case, it’s now a waiting game as the slow-moving extradition process unfolds.
“I pray for the day that I get that phone call and they say, ‘Hey, he’s here. He’s on his way.’ I haven’t gotten that yet,” Cortes said.
Officers said it could take months or even years before Estrada is transported back to Elko.
“It’s very frustrating,” Cortes said.
She said she’s not very patient, and she doesn’t understand why the extradition process is taking so long.
“They caught him. They have him. Send him back right away,” she said.
She also hopes that once Estrada is back in the United States, he will plead guilty to the crime and waive a trial. Cortes does not want her three grandchildren to go through a trial.
“If there’s a trial, they have to relive that day,” she said. “ ... It’s hard enough as an adult to relive (it), let alone them.”
Cortes said she thinks about her daughter every day. She knew Gonzalez was a victim of domestic violence, and Cortes has begun advocating against domestic abuse since her daughter’s death.
“I want people to hear and see my pain. I just don’t want people to feel my pain,” she said. “I don’t want people to go through what our family had to go through.”
She is the chairwoman of the Hispanic working group, which is affiliated with PACE Coalition. The group hosted an event in March on domestic violence prevention.
“It’s an emotional thing and word has to get out. It’s something we still need to talk about,” she said.
The goal of the group is to let victims know where to go and who to talk to, Cortes said. Anything victims share with the members is kept confidential. While the focus is on Hispanic victims, Cortes said the group will help anyone.
“If somebody needs assistance, we will be there for them,” she said.
Cortes said she is trying to coordinate a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, possibly in conjunction with the Stephanie Gonzalez Memorial Softball Tournament on Sept. 18-20.
During a candlelight vigil Gonzalez’s family hosts every year on the day of her death, Cortes spoke about the little moments she had with her daughter, such as when Gonzalez cooked the same meal every week as a teen when it was her turn to feed the family.
“I miss her every day,” Cortes said. “ ... It’s like a part of you is not there.”
While she thinks about her daughter, Cortes waits for the day her suspected killer will be brought to justice.
“I’m just glad he’s caught and not living the good life,” she said. “Now we just wait for the next phase.”