Fugitive goes on trial in 1992 slaying in crowded restaurant
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A self-described spiritualist opened fire on his wife’s girlfriend in a crowded restaurant 23 years ago, then fled to the Philippines to start a new life with a new family, prosecutors told a Philadelphia jury as the suspect’s murder trial opened Tuesday.
Santiago Pedroso, 73, might never have been caught had he not walked into the U.S. Embassy in Manila in 2013 with an itch to travel. The computer went “Ping!” when he applied for a passport, and the stooped, graying suspect was soon in custody, Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax said.
“We are tethered to these digital machines. They do some good, sometimes,” Sax said of the technology that spit out a June 22, 1992, arrest warrant from Philadelphia from a machine half-way around the world.
Pedroso, who ran a religious goods store in Philadelphia, had suspected his wife was romantically involved with best friend Delores Alvarez, a Hughes Aircraft employee.
Alvarez, 41, had come to visit a month earlier, prompting tension that led Pedroso and his wife to separate. Their teenage daughter lived with the women.
Pedroso and the girl were eating out on Father’s Day when Alvarez and the wife, Maria, walked in. Pedroso left for his nearby home and came back with a five-shot revolver, Sax said.
“She (Alvarez) actually ordered a chicken walnut salad. As I turned away, I heard two shots. I started walking toward the kitchen,” waiter Walter White recalled Tuesday. “When I looped around, I saw the gentleman pointing a revolver at the victim.
″(It was) bang bang. Bang bang. Bang,” White testified.
Pedroso’s wife and daughter screamed, while other diners dropped to the floor or tipped their tables over. Eighty-five people were in the restaurant, according to news accounts.
The wife, Maria Jesus Gomez, died within the past year, but the former couple’s daughter is flying in from the West Coast to testify Wednesday. She also built a life far away from Philadelphia, Sax noted.
Pedroso, a native of Cuba, first fled to the Dominican Republic before stops in Venezuela and then the Philippines, where he married and had more children, the prosecutor said.
Defense lawyer Richard Giuliani is expected to challenge the statement Pedroso gave police after his long trip back to the U.S. He asked the jury to stay focused on the family situation.
“What was going on here, with this family, that’s going to be very important evidence,” Giuliani said.