Stabbing suspect found in Mexico, arrested by feds
A 25-year-old man wanted by Grass Valley police in connection with a vehicle theft and an unrelated stabbing was arrested earlier this month in Tijuana, the U.S. Marshals Office said in a Friday press release.
Juan Antonio Zuniga is facing additional charges in other California jurisdictions, and possibly for kidnapping and extortion, authorities said.
On July 17, Grass Valley police officers responded to a report of a vehicle theft in the 100 block of Dorsey Drive, said Sgt. Clint Bates. The victim told officers Zuniga had taken the car keys and did not have permission to take the vehicle, Bates said.
Zuniga is a “known gang member from the Riverside area,” Bates said, adding, “That is mainly where he resides.”
Authorities in Riverside County located the stolen vehicle there and recovered it, and a warrant was sought for Zuniga, Bates said.
Around noon Aug. 23, Grass Valley police were dispatched to a reported stabbing in the 1400 block of Segsworth Way and found the victim had driven himself to the hospital. He was found in the emergency room and had been stabbed about four times in the upper right torso, according to Bates.
“A verbal altercation started inside a residence and continued outside,” he said. “The victim was trying to leave, and Zuniga chased him down and stabbed him multiple times.”
Charges were filed for assault with a deadly weapon, court records state.
According to Bates, Zuniga fled Grass Valley after the stabbing, leaving with his girlfriend and her two children, ages 3 and 5.
“He was on the run,” Bates said. “They were all hiding out in Riverside County and then into Mexico.”
Then, the story took a bizarre twist.
A woman contacted the Grass Valley Police Department on Dec. 8 to report that Zuniga was holding his girlfriend and her children hostage in Tijuana. The woman, a family member of the victim, said he was threatening to kill them unless she gave him $10,000, dispatch reports stated. Zuniga had sent a video in which he was physically assaulting the victim, Bates said.
Grass Valley took a missing persons report and reached out to Riverside County and to the U.S. Marshals, who were tracking Zuniga due to a parole violation, Bates said.
The California Department of Corrections Rehabilitation Fugitive Apprehension Team had initiated an investigation of Zuniga, working with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service task force to locate him, the press release states. Zuniga was on parole for a 2014 Placer County case in which he pleaded no contest to carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon, according to court records.
Zuniga was arrested by Mexican authorities near Tijuana on Dec. 11, after the task force developed information regarding a possible location. Zuniga was transferred into U.S. Marshals Service custody later that afternoon and transported back to the U.S. to await further criminal proceedings, the release states.
“Thanks to the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies, including our counterparts in Mexico, we were able to prevent harm and the loss of life to the victim and her children,” Acting U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of California Lasha Boyden said.
Boyden commended both the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI for their ability to work hand in hand on such a short notice to bring a fugitive to justice within 48 hours of the investigation.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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