Computer finds slaying suspect hiding under alias

Fingerprints and records searches lead to an arrest in the 27-year-old case.

Published December 13, 2005

A man who evaded police detection for 27 years was arrested last week in the 1978 murder of a labor camp worker.

Jose Louis Santana, 58, was booked Dec. 9 into a Miami jail after Hillsborough County detectives and U.S. Marshals in Tampa and Miami linked him to the stabbing death through extensive records searches and fingerprints.

Detective Ken Hoskin of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Santana used a number of aliases over the years. Santana fled from Green Labor Camp in Ruskin on Nov. 2, 1978, after Osvaldo Gonzalez, 37, was stabbed to death after an altercation, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The agency issued a warrant for Santana's arrest that same year.

While he's been arrested since, Santana's aliases have helped him elude detection as the man with the warrant against him for murder. As recently as Oct. 19, Santana was charged with trespassing by Miami police, but he gave the name "Hector Manuel Sanchez," according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office.

Santana's arrest is the first made since Sheriff David Gee opened a new cold case unit dedicated to solving decades-old murders. Santana had against him one of the 30 old warrants the office is pursuing - 18 for homicide, 11 for attempted murder and one for becoming a murder accessory after the fact.

"He was the lucky one that came up No. 1," Hoskin said of Santana.

While the detective said some of the cold case investigations are expected to involve more legwork, including surveillance, Santana's arrest was largely the result of computer work.

The 58-year-old was living in a homeless shelter in Miami when he was taken into custody Friday. He was assisting a food cart vendor at the time of the arrest. He admitted his true identity, a sheriff's spokeswoman said, and is being held in Miami awaiting extradition to Hillsborough County.

"We're going to be doing anything we can to find these guys," Hoskin said. "It's one of the all-important games of the world: finding someone who is wanted and tries to hide."