19 Years Later, Past Catches Up to Murder Fugitive
NEW YORK (AP) _ For nearly two decades, Luis Gonzalez cloaked himself in the trappings of an ordinary life.
Family man, hard worker, upstanding citizen: All were apt descriptions. Murder suspect was not _ until this week.
Gonzalez, whose real name is David Galletti, was arrested Wednesday in South Carolina in a 1976 slaying in Brooklyn. A routine fingerprint check revealed his true identity, unknown even to his wife and two children, police said.
Galletti, 42, was extradited Thursday to New York City. He was arraigned on murder and other charges in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn and ordered held without bail. He is due in court again on Monday.
Authorities said the fugitive evaded the law for 19 years by skillfully reinventing himself and ending up in Hemingway, S.C., a town of 800 people about 30 miles west of Myrtle Beach.
New York homicide investigators knew Galletti as a drug-using street tough whose yellowing mug shot _ taken in 1975 after he allegedly assaulted a police officer _ was taped to their office wall, said Detective Bobby Alongi. They were astonished by what they discovered when they flew south to make the arrest.
``He turned his whole life around,″ Alongi said. ``We expected the guy in the picture. We found this clean-cut executive. He looked great.″
Galletti is accused of being one of two masked men who, in October 1976, sprayed a group of people with gunfire on a Brooklyn street, killing Leutisher Johnson, 52, and injuring three others. Police believe an argument between Johnson and Galletti’s sister sparked the shooting.
After witnesses identified Galletti as one of the shooters, police obtained warrants for his arrest.
But Galletti fled to Puerto Rico, leaving behind a wife and children, authorities said. He returned to the United States in the early 1980s.
Using the Gonzalez alias, he remarried and started a second family. He also landed a job with Aramark Food Services, a catering company, eventually becoming a manager in a Miami office, police said.
Time passed. Investigators gave up.
``Someone like him usually gets collared up for another crime at some point,″ Alongi said. ``We thought he was dead.″
Then, early this year, Galletti made a crucial mistake. Aramark gave him access to a company account at a Citibank in Miami, for which the bank required fingerprints.
Galletti complied, and the prints were sent to FBI headquarters. A routine check matched the prints to Galletti’s, which New York police had from the 1975 assault arrest.
``It really was a fluke,″ said FBI Special Agent Joe Younginer. ``What would you think after 20 years? People don’t think we would carry on a process for that long.″
Detectives in Brooklyn responded to news of Galletti’s whereabouts by tracking down witnesses to the 1976 shooting, Alongi said. After reviving the case, authorities gathered in Hemingway, where Galletti recently was transferred.
On Wednesday, New York detectives, FBI agents and a local sheriff went to the fugitive’s office. They announced they were there to arrest an employee.
``Before you do anything, let me call my manager, Luis Gonzalez,″ Galletti’s boss told the officers.
``That’s who we’re here for,″ Alongi replied.