The Justice Files: Murder suspect avoided arrest by fleeing to Mexico

Justice Files

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Two men were charged with the murder of Paris Gustin.

One is still in jail, but the other suspect fled to Mexico and has yet to be found.

It’s left a bitter taste in the mouth of Gustin’s mother. For nearly five-years, she’s been waiting for justice.

“The first shot was to his back and at this point, he was still alive,” Ashley Carter said. “And he turned to his friend and said, ‘Oh I think I am shot.”

Those may have been Gustin’s last words. On July 5th 2016, he died in the backseat of his friends car.

Police released surveillance of the suspect’s vehicle and the tips started coming in.

But wasn’t until February 2017 that prosecutors charged Fortunato Villagrana and Martin Antonio Cruz with Paris’ murder.

Fortunato “Nato” Villagrana

The motive: Villagrana allegedly retaliated after his car was egged by the young teens.

The admission came from Cruz who is arrested and claimed Villagrana was the shooter. But Paris’ mother wonders how true that is.

“I think (Cruz) just wanted to throw him under the bus,” said Carter. “For all we know, they’ve been talking to the shooter.”

Another man, Jonathan Padilla-Lopez also told police Villagrana is the triggerman.

But there’s one problem. Villagrana fled before charges were filed. He may be in Mexico and the idea he’s on the run angered Carter.

“I recently found out that the Salt Lake City police department did not contact any officials following my son’s murder even though all parties were aware Fortunato Villagrana was a Mexican resident and was a possible flight risk,” she said.

But according to a search warrant, it was 10-days after Paris’ murder that a detective first learned of the name Fortuato “Nato” Villagrana.”

The warrant said a confidential informant told police there was an anonymous Facebook post that “Nato was involved in the murder.”

And when “Nato” saw it his “mother, his brother in law (sic) and he disappeared,” according to the informant.

The informant said he text Villagrana who responded saying “he went to Mexico.”

Still, Paris’ mother doesn’t trust the police in their efforts to find Villagrano. She said her friends in Mexico have not seen any wanted poster of Villagrana along the border or in communities.


“Since the beginning of this nightmare, there never once has been a picture of Fortunato’s face on it,” Carter said.

As for the second suspect, Martin Cruz he’ll be in court April 19 at the Matheson Courthouse.

According to court records, his attorney and the Salt Lake district attorney’s office are “working towards a resolution.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


More Podcasts