Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fugitive In 1991 Collier Rape Case Arrested In Texas

For 14 years he lived the life of a free man, taking a bride, working various jobs, getting a driver’s license, and collecting Social Security benefits.

But deputies with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office wanted Jose Guerrero Lozano Jr. behind bars for the 1991 rapes of three girls, ages 5, 8 and 10, in Immokalee.

The past finally caught up with Lozano this week when he was arrested in Texas on an active 1996 warrant charging him with skipping a mandatory court hearing in Collier County.

Without the great detective work and persistence of two CCSO deputies, the arrest might not have been possible.

Lozano is currently in the Calhoun County Jail awaiting extradition from Texas to Collier County, where he faces three counts of capital sexual battery stemming from his June 23, 1991, arrest in connection with the Immokalee rape case.

The 53-year-old fugitive was arrested Tuesday at his residence in Seadrift, Texas. He was standing on his front porch talking to his attorney on his cell phone when U.S. Marshals showed up to take him into custody.

Deputies had known that Lozano might be living in Texas, however, limitations on the 1996 warrant made it impossible for him to be extradited back to Florida.

Enter Cpl. Gary Minick.

Minick, who works in the sheriff’s Warrants Bureau, was assigned the Lozano case as part of a larger CCSO effort to try to get extradition restrictions removed on active warrants involving suspects whose locations are believed to be known.

Through their investigation Minick and Susan Rojas, senior criminal research investigator in the Warrrants Bureau, found a possible address for Lozano in Seadrift. They discovered that he had a wife and a valid Texas driver’s license. They also learned that at some point he received Social Security benefits sent to a post office box in Seadrift.

What Minick and Rojas didn’t have was information on how to contact the three victims, now 29, 27 and 24.

Through an extensive computer database search, Rojas was able to turn up an address for one of the victims, now living in Tennessee. Minick and Rojas were unable to locate her, but they did reach her mother, who told them how to contact the other two victims, now living in separate counties in Southwest Florida.

Minick contacted the two women in Southwest Florida and explained what he was trying to do. He said the women were shocked by his call, unaware the case wasn’t over. They had thought Lozano had long been convicted and served prison time, Minick said.

Given this new information, the women were eager to press charges.

“One of the women told me straight out that the event ruined her life,” Minick said. “She definitely wants to get her justice.”

Minick then wrote a letter to the State Attorney’s Office, explaining that he had a possible address for Lozano in Texas and that he had located two of the victims who were still interested in prosecution. He asked prosecutors to consider changing the warrant extradition status from “Florida only” to “anywhere in the United States.”

Prosecutors agreed. The U.S. Marshal’s Service was contacted. And on Tuesday Minick and Rojas saw their persistence pay off.

“It definitely felt good,” Minick said of the arrest. “You read cold case files and it’s frustrating when you know where the guy is at and we’re not able to get him because of the limitations placed on the warrant.”