Connell shooter still at large

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 16, 2014 

Julio Cesar Hernandez

Julio Cesar Hernandez

CONNELL -- A year after Saul Ramos-Arrazate was shot to death inside his girlfriend's Connell apartment authorities are still trying to bring his killer to justice.

Suspect Julio Cesar Hernandez has evaded local and federal authorities for a year. Officials say they aren't sure where he is.

Hernandez has been on the run since Jan. 17 when authorities say he shot his ex-wife's boyfriend in bed several times with a .45-caliber pistol.

Hernandez, 39, may have fled to Mexico where he has family, authorities said. He is not a U.S. citizen and could be going by his given name Juan Carlos Cortez.

U.S. Marshals and local police continue follow leads on Hernandez's whereabouts. He is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and being an alien in possession of a gun.

"Obviously the warrants are still out there and if he is picked up he will be extradited back here," said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. "They are certainly trying to track leads. The problem is, if he is outside of the country that can present challenges."

Hernandez is accused of breaking into the apartment and shooting Ramos-Arrazate three times. Hernandez's two daughters, ages 6 and 10, were in the apartment at the time.

Police said Hernandez asked Ramos-Arrazate, "Do you know who I am?" before shooting him.

Hernandez was trying to call his ex-wife the night of the shooting when Ramos-Arrazate answered her phone, said Mike Kessler, former Connell police chief who headed up the homicide investigation. Hernandez and his ex-wife had apparently argued over custody of their daughters.

Hernandez picked the girls up from a baby sitter before going to the apartment on the 400 block of East Elm St., authorities said. His ex-wife already had left the apartment to get the girls.

The girls told police Hernandez loaded the gun in the car and took them inside, Kessler said. They heard their dad argue with Ramos-Arrazate and saw him fire at least one shot.

As Hernandez's ex-wife pulled up to her apartment, she saw Hernandez and her daughters running across the parking lot, authorities said. She went inside and found her boyfriend shot.

An autopsy showed Ramos-Arrazate died minutes later.

"I think it was more than just a crime of passion," Kessler said. "He wanted to kill this guy. He had plenty of time between when he got the phone call and when he loaded the gun to think about it."

After the shooting, Hernandez went to his estranged brother's house in Othello with the girls, authorities said. He told his brother he "did something stupid" and showed him a gun.

His brother threw the gun across a nearby field, authorities said. Hernandez then took off when his brother called police.

The girls were left there and they returned to their mother the next day.

The gun was the same weapon used to kill Ramos-Arrazate, Kessler said. Police also found ammunition in Hernandez's trailer that matches the shell casings found at the scene.

Police tried tracking a phone number they thought was his, Kessler said. The number turned out to be wrong. They eventually found Hernandez's phone on the side of an Othello road.

"After that we kind of lost him," Kessler said. "We weren't able to get any further information on his (exact) whereabouts. I know for sure we ultimately tracked him to Mexico. As far as I know he was tracked to his hometown in Mexico."

Hernandez most likely had help leaving Othello, authorities said. He has family in Central Washington and friends in Corning, Calif. Authorities are offering a cash reward for information leading to his arrest.

The shooting is only the second homicide in Connell since 1994.

"Having only one homicide every 19 years ... makes it difficult not to catch this guy," Kessler said. "I would definitely like to see him brought to justice."

Anyone with information on Hernandez's whereabouts is asked to contact U.S. Marshals at 509-946-9423 or the Connell Police Department's nonemergency line at 545-3510.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556;; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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