Jesus Ernesto Chvez Castillo, who told Mexican authorities that he ordered the assassinations of a a U.S. consulate employee and her husband, appeared in U.S. District Court in San Antonio on Friday after his extradition.
A man suspected of ordering the assassination of a U.S. Consulate worker and her husband in Juárez in March appeared Friday in a San Antonio courtroom under tight security and a shroud of secrecy.
Jesus Ernesto Chávez Castillo, known as "El Camello," or the camel, is suspected of ordering the slayings of Lesley Enriquez Redelfs and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, both of El Paso.
Chávez was watched over by several FBI agents, most of whom were allowed inside the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge John Primomo for a closed-door hearing that took about 40 minutes.
The San Antonio Express-News late Friday confirmed through sources, photographs and booking records at a jail near San Antonio, where the prisoner was being held, that the hearing was for Chávez, 41.
FBI Special Agent Michael Martinez, a spokesman for the agency in El Paso, said he could not provide any information on the case and referred all inquiries to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He declined to comment on what charges Chávez may face in the U.S.
The family of the Redelfs also declined to comment Friday night.
Enriquez Redelfs and her husband were shot and killed on March 13 after they left a children's party in Juárez. Also killed that day was Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consulate employee who also attended the party.
Chávez was arrested this summer by Mexican authorities, accused of planning the shooting deaths the three victims and of participating in the slayings of 15 people, including 11 teenagers in January at a birthday party in Villas del Salvacar neighborhood of Juárez.
He was handed over to U.S. authorities as part of an agreement between the two countries to cooperate on drug extradition cases. The federal complaint on which he was being held is under seal.
José Ramón Salinas, spokes man for the Mexican federal police in Juárez, said in July that Chávez told authorities that Juárez drug cartel members who live in the United States conspired to kill Enriquez Redelfs because she smoothed the way when issuing visas to members of the Sinaloa cartel. She was pregnant when she was killed.
Salinas said the federal agents have not confirmed the allegation that Enriquez Redelfs was the target.
The FBI in El Paso, which has been investigating the slayings, said his claim is unverified.
"We have no indication that anyone who was killed was targeted because of their jobs," FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said then.
Chávez, described as a top Azteca gang member who led hit squads, was arrested in Juárez after a raid by authorities on a home. Mexican police arrested Chávez and Francisco Puga de la Torre, 30, in connection with the slayings of Enriquez Redelfs, Redelfs and Salcido.
Chávez, who has an extensive criminal record in the U.S., was taken to Mexico City after his arrest because he is considered a high-risk prisoner, officials said.
Chávez told police he knew Enriquez Redefs was traveling in a white sport utility vehicle on the day of the attack. He and other gang members located two similar vehicles at the birthday party. They followed and opened fire against both.
Salcido was driving the other sport utility vehicle.
Mexican authorities arrested another suspect in late March, and his story contradicts Chávez's.
Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, a former Barrio Azteca gang member, told authorities that Arthur Redelfs was targeted because he mistreated gang members at the El Paso County Jail, where he worked.
Mexican authorities said Chavez worked for "La Linea," or the Juárez drug cartel, which is entangled in a bloody war with the Sinaloa drug cartel. More than 6,000 people have been killed in Juárez in the war that started in 2008.
The hearing in San Antonio for Chávez appeared to have been scheduled for late Friday going into the Labor Day weekend to avoid publicity. Primomo turned down a San Antonio Express-News reporter's objection to closing the hearing, which was ordered by a federal judge in El Paso.
A federal prosecutor who attended the hearing also refused to answer questions about Chávez.
Court records show that Chávez has had a history of crime in the United States. He has been arrested and convicted on charges of drug dealing and alcohol abuse.
Chávez arrived illegally in El Paso with his family when he was 17 in 1986. That year, he married and moved to Los Angeles.
In the 1990s, Chávez was arrested and convicted for drunken driving and for selling marijuana to undercover El Paso police officers.
Chávez became a U.S. resident in January 1996, but he quickly ran into problems with the law again.
In April 1996, Chávez was convicted of selling marijuana. He was subject to deportation because of the drug-dealing conviction but was given a chance to stay in 1998.
In 2001, Chávez crashed a vehicle in Horizon City and injured four people. He had been drinking and was charged with intoxicated assault and convicted.
After that conviction, the U.S. government deported him to Juárez.
But he came back.
In 2003, he managed to enter the United States by lying to customs at a port of entry, saying he was a U.S. citizen, according to court documents. In February that year, he was arrested by the Border Patrol at the Del Norte Courts Motel.
The agent who arrested Chávez said the motel was known for drug and immigrant smuggling operations, according to an affidavit.
Chávez again lied to the agents about his status and said he had papers, the affidavit said. He was convicted of illegal re-entry and put in a federal prison for 30 months because of his previous crimes.
It is unclear where Chávez went after his prison term. But Mexican authorities said Chávez was detained by the Mexican army in 2008 in connection with drug trafficking. He was later released.
Times reporter Aileen B. Flores contributed to this report
Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express-News contributed to this report.