Still plenty of unsolved mysteries at South Shore
August 9, 2004
With Geronimo Zuniga’s capture and Ulysses Roberson awaiting trial, South Lake Tahoe police have been crossing big names off their cold case list.
Roberson, accused of killing his 4-year-old son in the Tahoe Keys in 1986, was at the top of the list along with Zuniga.
With both of them in custody police officers are setting their sights on more dusty cases.
One involves the March 2001 death of an 11-year-old sixth-grader who ingested a fatal amount of cocaine allegedly supplied by Jose Rodriguez-Perez, authorities said.
Rodriguez-Perez is believed to be in Mexico, his home country. Authorities believe he fled there before toxicology reports revealed cocaine was the main factor in Claudia Torres’ death. Rodriguez-Perez was questioned twice before the test results.
The South Tahoe Middle School student went to a party hosted by Rodriguez-Perez the night of her death where she reportedly ingested the drug and drank alcohol, authorities said.
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There is a warrant for Rodriguez-Perez’s arrest. Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said the United States and Mexico don’t have an extradition treaty and Mexico doesn’t allow removal of its people, especially if they face life in an American prison.
Uthe said Mexico views the sentence as cruel and unusual punishment.
Another case where police have identified a suspect is the disappearance of 73-year-old Francis Hatatis. The woman who lived near Stateline was last seen in July 1997. A month later parolee Edward Hawkins was spotted driving her car in Colorado.
Sgt. Alex Schumacher said the department is waiting to get more evidence to obtain a warrant for Hawkins, who is serving time in a Carson City prison for armed robbery.
“He’s always a priority,” Schumacher said.
Other cases involve Donna Lass, a suspected victim of the famously elusive Zodiac killer, and Richard Swanson, a gas station clerk who was suffocated in 1980 when a robber duct-taped his face.
In addition, there are eight missing persons also posted on the board in the detective’s unit of the police department.
Schumacher said the department is aware of the cases. As the progress on Zuniga and Roberson show, cases might be cold, but they’re not forgotten.
“We keep on them as much as we can,” Schumacher said.