Five years after the killing of Mexican journalist, federal authorities say killer may be already dead

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  • November 14, 2013

By Sebastián Carmona Soto*

Five years after the killing of Mexican journalist Armando Rodríguez “El Choco,” the federal authorities that recently took over the investigation are now saying that his alleged killer could already be dead, newspaper El Diario de Juárez reported.

However, it is unclear how reliable the new information is since authorities have not been able to establish if the suspect even existed.

This is the sixth version of the crime that authorities have made public since Rodríguez, a police reporter for El Diario, was shot and killed on Nov. 13, 2008 in front of his house as he got ready to take his daughter to school.

According to the Special Prosecutor's Office on Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), statements from a protected witness, a former police officer who is no longer alive and Juan Alfredo Soto "El Arnold" (an alleged hit man found guilty amidst claims of torture of participating in the gruesome 2010 massacre of Villas de Salvarcar) point in the direction of a new suspect; however, authorities have not been able to clearly identify the man, who they said could be named either Julio Gómez or Julio Torres.

According to Laura Evangelina Borbolla, head of the FEADLE, Soto said he and “Julio” drove together to kill Rodríguez. Soto stayed in the car while Julio committed the crime.

Soto stated that Julio was killed in a riot in a Chihuahua prison. However, authorities do not have any record of his death, or where or why he was imprisoned, Borbolla said.

Mike O'Connor, representative of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) in Mexico, was skeptical of the FEADLE´s new investigation.

"I do not know what we can expect of the FEADLE, I am not criticizing them, but the fact is that Armando's case is too old to start again with any hopes of success; that investigation folder was in the hands of the local authorities, and there are suspicions that it was directly handled by the boss of the local cartel," he said.

Authorities’ main line of investigation continues to be that José Antonio Acosta “El Diego”, the former head of the Juárez cartel’s enforcement unit La Línea, ordered Rodríguez’s death. Acosta was detained in 2011 and was extradited to the United States. Borbolla said her office has been unable to interview him regarding Rodríguez’s case.

In August, the FEADLE took over Rodríguez’s case from the state of Chihuahua’s prosecutor’s office, where the case stalled for more than four years. It is the first homicide case that the FEADLE will investigate since the office was created in 2006.

The FEADLE has been criticized as inefficient and is being closely observed by international journalism organizations like CPJ.

*Sebastián Carmona Soto is a student in the class "Reporting Latin America" at the University of Texas at Austin.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.