Miami detectives say they have solved the mystery of two gay men shot dead blocks and days apart in Allapattah in 1998.
By DAVID OVALLE, email@example.com
Guillermo Valencia, 32, pictured, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Transferred from federal prison in California, Valencia was booked into Miami-Dade County Jail last Saturday.
The dead men: Leonides Ramos, 51, a travel agency courier, killed Oct. 2, 1998; and Osvaldo Del Pino, 39, a women's lingerie wholesaler, slain Oct. 8.
Detectives believe Valencia may have met both men through separate encounters at Allapattah-Comstock Park, 2800 NW 17th Ave.
Investigators are still not sure of a motive.
Police say Ramos and Del Pino frequently invited men to their respective homes.
On the afternoon of Oct. 2, a roommate arrived at Ramos' duplex, 2160 NW 24th St., and saw a man jumping the fence into a next-door yard. Then he found Ramos, shot in the chest, on the bedroom floor.
A fingerprint was lifted from a metal post that supported the duplex's aluminum roof, according to an arrest warrant. One witness had seen Valencia touch the post as he ran off, police said.
Six days later at 1905 NW 28th St., a neighbor heard a dog barking about 2:38 a.m. He saw Del Pino's air-conditioning unit was gone -- looking inside the window, he saw his body in the lighted bedroom.
Both men had been killed with the same .38-caliber handgun.
At the time, homicide detectives feared a killer was on the loose, targeting gay men. Investigators issued press releases and walked the neighborhood passing out fliers.
Then the case grew cold. Miami Detective Confesor Gonzalez kept a photograph of the suspected killer's fingerprint on his desk, a yearly reminder to run the fingerprint. ''Whenever I changed desks, I kept it. Every time I went to work, it stared at me,'' said Gonzalez, now a sergeant.
Luck arrived in June 2005 when a fingerprint match came back to Valencia, who had been arrested on federal drug and gun charges in San Jose, Calif.
Detectives interviewed a woman in North Carolina who said she had known Valencia in Miami in 1998.
When Miami cold case detective Andy Arostegui interviewed Valencia at a federal detention center in Oakland, Calif., he denied ever knowing the men. But he allowed Arostegui to take a DNA sample.
That sample matched DNA found on two wads of chewing gum found at Del Pino's home.
An arrest warrant was issued shortly before Valencia, in the country illegally, was set to be deported to Mexico.
After he was arrested, Valencia admitted he knew the men and had hung around with them in 1998 when he worked as a handyman and painter in Miami.
''He denied killing them,'' Arostegui said.
Investigators have not been able to find Del Pino or Ramos' families. The two men had no apparent link other than they lived near each other.
Irma Dorrego, who worked with Ramos at Aeroandes Travel, remembered Ramos had a brother in Cuba and a daughter in the United States.
''I'm very happy,'' she said of Valencia's arrest. ``His personal life was his personal life. But he was always a good person.''