Local detectives get their man after 10 years on the run

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For more than 10 years, local sheriff’s detectives have been reaching out across the Mexican border in an effort to convince a fugitive wanted on suspicion of attempted murder and robbery to give himself up.

On Wednesday, they saw their suspect appear in San Fernando Superior Court to face justice.

Leonardo Garcia, who at one time was the subject of a million-dollar arrest warrant, faced charges in connection with a decade-old crime.

In court Wednesday, Garcia admitted to being involved in the 2008 crime and accepted a plea of five years in state prison on the charge of robbery, Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said Thursday.

Part of the suspect’s terms and conditions of his sentence will include his deportation back to Mexico after serving his sentence, she said.

Key detectives on the case included Detective Mark Barretto and Sgt. Tim Vanderleek, who in 2008 were both were members of the SCV Sheriff’s Station’s Career Offenders, Robbery, Burglary Assault team — or COBRA.

Barretto is still with COBRA and Vanderleek now serves as the lead investigator on the J-Team, or Juvenile Team.

For both detectives, seeing their wanted man back in California was rewarding.

“After years of trying to apprehend the suspect, which included contacts from different states and contact with the suspect himself — who was in Mexico at the time and refused to surrender — he was finally detained by border patrol agents in February 2018,” Barretto said Wednesday.

“The suspect was eventually turned over into the custody of the LASD,” he said. “And charges were filed on his involvement in this incident.”

COBRA Sgt. Brian Shreves, who oversees the COBRA team today, said: “This is a notable case where apprehension and conviction occurred 10 years after the incident.”

The case against Garcia began more than 10 years ago.

On Sept. 14, 2008, an attempted murder/robbery incident occurred in which several members from a street gang in Canyon Country robbed and then stabbed victims at a condominium complex, Miller said.

“Members from this gang were identified and subsequently sentenced to 10 years’ state prison and were recently released and now on parole,” she said.

One of the suspects from this incident was identified as 28-year-old Leonardo Garcia who, Miller said, fled to Mexico in an effort to avoid capture and prosecution.

A warrant for his arrest in the amount of $1 million was issued a short time later.

In February, he was arrested by border agents and returned to Los Angeles County.

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