Saturday, July 13, 2002

Fugitive ruled dead in Mexico

But some question foreign death certificate

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — An official-looking death certificate in Spanish says Jesus Padilla, a fugitive who fled to his native Mexico to avoid trial in a Butler County double vehicular-homicide case, died of a heart attack in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

        But Peggy Shope, whose husband, Cecil, was killed in a September 1999 crash in West Chester Township in which Mr. Padilla was accused of drunken driving, is upset it took nine months for the death certificate to surface — and she has reasons to be skeptical of whether Mr. Padilla is dead.

        “I'm shocked,” Ms. Shope said Friday, after being told the death certificate says Mr. Padilla, 44, died Oct. 15, following two years of heart problems, two years of high blood pressure and five years of diabetes.

        “Because of the alleged ties I'm told he had with the Mexican authorities ... I think there's more to the story of Jesus Padilla.”

        Ms. Shope said investigators told her that Mr. Padilla was related to the police chief in the town where he was living — Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, about 200 miles northwest of Mexico City.

        Ms. Shope said she also heard Mr. Padilla was running a successful business there. “He set himself up as a big frog in a small city with wealth dripping from his fingers. ... He had to have had some help to do that,” she said.

        When Mr. Padilla fled Butler County, he went to Chicago and then to Mexico, authorities said, resulting in a bail bondsman being ordered to pay half of the $200,000 bond that had been posted for Mr. Padilla.

        Ms. Shope said she hasn't seen a penny of the $2.9 million judgment that a Butler County judge issued in a civil suit against Mr. Padilla.

        Sandra G. Shircliff, 47, of Maineville, also was killed in the crash that claimed Ms. Shope's husband.

        Detective Monte Mayer, Butler County sheriff's spokesman, said he didn't know why the death certificate took so long to reach Butler County, but he did say it took a while for it to filter through law-enforcement channels. The certificate, which bears a circular stamp, says it was filed Oct. 17, two days after Mr. Padilla was reported dead.

        Butler County Sheriff Harold Don Gabbard, whose fugitive unit had been on the lookout for Mr. Padilla since he failed to show up for his trial in March 2000, said he has no evidence to dispute the death certificate.

        “Since the document was obtained through credible law enforcement sources, it is believed to be authentic,” he said.


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