ELKO – A three-year manhunt has ended with the arrest of the lone suspect in the 2011 slaying of Stephanie Gonzalez, according to Elko police.
On June 25, 2011, Gonzalez, 29, was killed in her home on Garcia Lane. Elko police began investigating the case and determined Gonzalez’s estranged husband, Eduardo Estrada, 32, was the suspect.
Estrada allegedly strangled Gonzalez. She was found the next day underneath a pile of clothes on a bed. Her two youngest children were in the home when their mother was killed, according to Gonzalez’s mother, Lidia Cortes.
After allegedly killing Gonzalez, Estrada took the two children, who were 5 and 3 years old at the time, to his parents’ house. Cortes said Estrada told his father he had to run an errand, and left the two children with their grandparents. He wasn’t seen again in Elko, and it was believed he fled to Mexico, where he has family.
Four days after Gonzalez’s death, Estrada was charged with murder in Elko Justice Court and a state warrant was issued for his arrest. Then on July 8, 2011, a federal arrest warrant was issued by U.S. District Court in Nevada. Estrada was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Elko detectives and local FBI agents continued to investigate the murder. FBI agents in Mexico worked with the local authorities in attempting to find him. Since Elko police do not have authority outside of the country, officers have to work at the discretion of the Mexican authorities, Police Chief Ben Reed said.
It was three years, four months and two days after the killing when Elko police received word Estrada had been taken into custody. Reed said Estrada was arrested by local authorities near the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was apparently involved in a fight, which led to the arrest, but Elko police do not have more details, Reed said. Elko police were notified at about 9 p.m. Sunday, Lt. Rich Genseal said.
Federal authorities have him in custody, Reed said. The next step is extradition proceedings, a process that will be slow-moving, he said.
“We’ve been advised already that it will be a months-long process,” Reed said. “… I don’t even want to speculate as to how or when. I just want to say he’s in custody.”
Genseal said the extradition process could take anywhere from six months to two years.
Reed wanted to thank the Mexican authorities for helping local law enforcement with the case. He also said the police department has never stopped working on the case.
“I think it’s important that even though we didn’t essentially cause the arrest yesterday, we set the stage for the arrest,” he said.
Reed said the case touched the hearts of a lot of Elko police employees because Gonzalez worked at the department as a summer intern years ago.
“Lidia and her family have been through far more than any family should have to endure,” Reed said.
The family has spoken on behalf of domestic violence victims, and they strive to keep Gonzalez’s memory alive through memorial ceremonies and fundraisers.
Cortes said three other women were killed in Elko County in 2011 by men who had existing or previous relationships with the women.
“I will always continue to fight against domestic violence,” Cortes said. “… I don’t want any of them to be forgotten.”
The family started a reward fund at Elko Federal Credit Union in the hopes the money would encourage people to provide information. Cortes said there is $28,860 in the fund currently, and the money was raised through community donations.
Reed said it hasn’t been determined if the reward money will be given to the authorities who arrested Estrada. He said he would like to know more details before awarding the money and he wants to make sure the family’s wishes are honored.
Cortes was tearful as she spoke about the long-awaited apprehension of her daughter’s alleged killer.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. I just want to say thank you to law enforcement here in Elko and in Mexico for working and never giving up on my baby, on our girl, Stephanie. I want to thank the community too for their love and support through all these three years. … I just want to thank God that he has been found and that he’s no longer out there living a good life while my baby’s gone forever,” Cortes said.
She acknowledged she’s been tough on law enforcement over the years because of frustrations on the progress in the case. She also said she could not be convinced Estrada didn’t plan to kill her daughter.
“I just want to say to Eduardo: Your day has come. I hope the day comes that when you are extradited back to the States that you would plead guilty and not put the kids through a trial. … They’ve been through enough.”
Estrada will be transferred into federal Mexican custody, Reed said. He hopes to have more details in the next couple of days regarding his arrest.
“It’s another chapter in a long, difficult story and it may be a lot longer before the next chapters unfold,” Reed said.