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Suspect in Bellush murder agrees to extradition

Times staff writer

©St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 1997


SARASOTA -- One of two men charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the shooting of the mother of quadruplets has agreed to sign an extradition waiver to return to Sarasota, his attorney said.

Samuel Gonzales, 27, could be returned this week to face the charges.

Last week he said he would agree to be extradited from San Antonio "in the spirit of cooperation," said his attorney, Fred Mercurio of Sarasota.

Gonzales' cousin is Jose Luis Del Toro Jr., the man accused of shooting Sheila Bellush to death Nov. 7. Gonzales was arrested in Texas 10 days after the killing.

Authorities say Del Toro drove from San Antonio to Sarasota and shot Bellush in her home while her 2-year-old quadruplets were nearby. Her 13-year-old daughter found the body when she returned from school.

Mercurio, who has represented a number of high-profile criminal defendants, was retained by Gonzales a week ago. Mercurio will be the lead attorney in Gonzales' defense, and S. James McHazlett, Gonzales' attorney in Texas, will act as co-counsel.

Investigators and prosecutors have revealed little about the roles of Gonzales and Daniel Rocha, a second man charged as an accomplice.

"I think his intentions will probably be made known fairly quickly as soon as he gets here," Mercurio said of Gonzales. "But it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on that now."

Sarasota County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Bill Stookey was heartened by the news of Gonzales' return.

"We not only want Del Toro, Gonzales and Rocha, but we want everyone back in Sarasota County," Stookey said. "Obviously, we're very interested in talking to anybody who can help us put this case together, totally together."

Gonzales has not signed the extradition waiver. When he does, which McHazlett said could be on Monday morning, it will be up to Sarasota authorities to fetch Gonzales. In a homicide case such as this one, the Sheriff's Office usually sends deputies on a plane to bring back the prisoner.

After Gonzales arrives in Sarasota, Mercurio said, he will move to reduce Gonzales' bail, set at $1-million.


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