Federal prosecutors soon will be forced to admit that their star witness in the gang conspiracy case against Alex Sanchez is a fugitive still on a crime spree somewhere in Central America.
According to prosecutors, the government’s cooperating witness, Juan Bonilla, a k a Zombie, gave statements to FBI and LAPD investigators in El Salvador implicating Alex Sanchez in the May 2006 shooting of Walter Lacinos, a k a Cameron, in that gang-ridden country. The prosecution claims that Bonilla/Zombie participated in an incriminating wiretapped phone call with Sanchez and others one week before the shooting. The Sanchez defense has strongly argued that the government has the "wrong Zombie," that it was another Juan Bonilla who took part in the phone call.
The case of the mistaken Zombie aside, now the Salvadoran papers El Mundo and El Diario de Hoy are reporting that the real Zombie is not only a fugitive but has lied to Salvadoran prosecutors about the killings in 2006.
" ‘Zombie’ is on the loose," El Mundo reported on May 11. The detailed article describes how Zombie offered himself as a witness to the police in the murder of Cameron and others, including a well-known gang intervention worker known as Smoky, who was written up sympathetically by National Public Radio reporter Mandolit del Barco. Smoky, a former MS leader turned peacemaker, law student and father, was killed May 13, 2006. Cameron himself may have been implicated in the killing of Smoky, which would make Cameron’s own death two days later an act of retaliation.
According to the El Mundo account, Zombie told prosecutors that Cameron traveled from Los Angeles to El Salvador to assassinate Smoky. "The latter had come out of anonymity and had achieved fame after appearing in a documentary about gangs, and he belong to an organization to rehabilitate mara [gang] members."
Zombie was finally arrested in 2006 after committing some twenty home robberies. In June 2008, he received special privileges for cooperating with Salvadoran and US authorities. After testifying against MS in exchange for leniency, Zombie escaped in April 2009 when prosecutors became suspicious of his tales. He disguised himself as a priest, a postal worker and even a prosecutor, the better to gain entry to the homes of the wealthy and later rob them. He also is blamed for several kidnappings, rapes and sexual batteries.
If the Salvadoran media accounts are accurate, Zombie has been a fugitive since before the June 2009 indictment of Alex Sanchez. Government prosecutors have never provided the court with the fact that their witness is missing.