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Bellush murder


Husband wants suspect extradited


©St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 1997

WASHINGTON -- The husband of Sheila Bellush, the Sarasota mother of six killed last month, has asked top government officials to extradite his wife's alleged killer to the United States.

James Bellush is working with U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., in hopes the lawmaker can help get suspected triggerman Jose Luis Del Toro Jr. moved from a Mexican jail to Sarasota, where he would face a charge of first-degree murder.

Bellush, who now lives in New Jersey, appeared with Torricelli at a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill. It was his first public appearance since speaking on America's Most Wanted television program last month.

"Mr. Del Toro shot my wife, Sheila Bellush, in the face with a .45-caliber pistol then cut her throat twice with a knife," Bellush said in a Nov. 25 letter to Torricelli. ". . . I beg you to immediately contact the State Department and the Mexican Ambassador and have Mr. Jose Del Toro immediately handed over to the Texas Rangers."

Torricelli said he has met with the Mexican ambassador to the United States. The senator said some Mexican officials are eager to extradite Del Toro.

"The ambassador assured me that extradition could take place in a few weeks," he said. "I am very relieved that there is a sense of seriousness with Mexican authorities, and a belief this will happen on an expedited basis."

But a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which handles extradition, said Tuesday that it would be "months" before Del Toro returns to the United States, if he does.

"It just takes a long time," said the spokesman, John Russell.

The next step is for the Justice Department to send probable cause affidavits to Mexican authorities. A key question is whether Florida prosectors will seek the death penalty. Mexico will not extradite people facing the death penalty.

Authorities say Del Toro drove from San Antonio to Sarasota, where he shot Sheila Bellush in her home on Nov. 7 while her 2-year-old quadruplets played, police said. Her 13-year-old daughter found her when she returned from school.

Since the killing, Mexican authorities captured 21-year-old Del Toro in the Mexican city of Monterrey, after Del Toro eluded police for two weeks. He is now in a jail in Mexico City.

Another prosecution option is for authorities to try Del Toro in Mexico, Russell said. "We can provide American prosecutors, American witnesses, but it goes before a Mexican judge and Mexican jury, and we accept whatever penalty they give out," he said.

Torricelli has written letters to Mexican Ambassador Jesus Reyes-Heroles, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno.

In addition to Del Toro's capture, two San Antonio residents, Samuel "Sammy" Gonzales and Daniel Alex Rocha, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Gonzales is expected to sign a waiver today in San Antonio court, which would allow him to be taken to Sarasota to assist in the slaying investigation.

James Bellush has moved his family -- including the quadruplets and his two stepdaughters -- to New Jersey, where much of his family lives.

Bellush said the 2-year-old quadruplets and two teenagers are "making it, day by day . . . but they miss their mom."

His voice cracked. "And I miss my wife."

©Copyright 1998 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.