JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - An accused Colorado killer surrendered to Denver FBI agents in El Salvador Wednesday and was flown back to Colorado to stand trial in the brutal stabbing death of a Denver man.
Edwin Ernesto Rivera Gracias, 28, agreed to return to the United States just 13 days after the FBI name him to its "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list and a $100,000 reward was offered for information leading to his arrest.
A fugitive for 19 months, Rivera Gracias faces first-degree murder charges in the killing of 69-year-old Richard Limon, whose body was found dumped on Lookout Mountain in 2011.
As news of the big reward for Rivera Gracias spread, the fugitive chose to surrender, said Denver FBI spokesman Dave S. Joly.
In coordination with Salvadoran authorities and the FBI's Legal Attaché Office in San Salvador, the United States sent an aircraft to transport Rivera Gracias back to Colorado.
The plane carrying Rivera Gracias landed about 12:45 p.m. at Centennial Airport, where FBI agents handed Rivera Gracias over to detectives from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
The FBI said information about what happens with the reward money will not be made public.
“We appreciate the media and public’s assistance in providing useful information following the naming of Rivera Gracias as a top ten fugitive,” said Steve Olson, acting special agent in charge of the Denver FBI office. “This outcome provides assurance for victims and prosecutors throughout the united states that those who commit egregious crimes will be pursued around the globe.”
The four-person plot to kill Richard Limon could be a twisted murder movie.
Limon’s wife, Tina Louise Moya, 40, her 19-year-old daughter, Nena, and Tina’s boyfriend, 48-year-old Raul Nunez-Soto, have already been convicted for their roles in the murder.
On Aug. 17, 2011, a cyclist riding up Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County stopped to take in the view and spotted Limon's half-naked body on the slope below.
His mouth and nose were covered in duct tape, and investigators believe Limon was already dead when his body was thrown from the side of a mountain road, tumbling down a rocky slope through bushes and weeds. A broken-off blade from a steak knife was found lodged in his chest.
"It's hard for me to get over it," the victim's daughter, Michelle Limon, said during a March 14 FBI news conference. "I'm still suffering."
According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Russell Humphrey, Rivera Gracias "expressed his desire to kill" Limon to an acquaintance about a month before the killing.
Rivera Gracias was angry because his then-17-year-old girlfriend, Nena Moya, told him that Limon had molested her as a child and had twice sexually assaulted her mother, Tina Moya, according to an unverified claim in the affidavit.
For months prior to his murder, Tina Moya, then age 38, had asked different people to kill Limon, said Pam Russell, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
Tina Moya was married to Limon, but she told people that he was her father.
Limon wasn't a wealthy man. He made his living making and selling burritos. But his family said Limon had a generous heart. And prosecutors say Tina Moya was quick to exploit his generosity.
Limon helped her find a place to live. He did the paperwork so she could obtain food stamps. He also filed her claim for a dog bite, so she could get an insurance payoff, according to prosecutors.
But Limon had moved away from Tina Moya in the months before the murder.
Yet, the wife, pleading that she needed Limon, convinced him to return to her, prosecutors said.
At the time of his death, Limon was living in a recreational vehicle in the driveway of Tina Moya’s house at 3262 W. Dakota Avenue in Denver. In a warped marriage of convenience, Limon tolerated Moya living in the home with her boyfriend, Raul Nunez-Soto.
On Aug. 16, 2011, Tina Moya, Rivera Gracias and Nunez-Soto were at the house on West Dakota. Tina kept pressuring the men to kill Limon, Russell said.
Rivera Gracias and Nunez-Soto finally agreed, Russell said. They went into the RV where Limon was lying on the bed and attacked him. Rivera Gracias is accused of wrapping the lower half of Limon’s head in duct tape in an attempt to suffocate him. Rivera-Gracias allegedly punched Limon repeatedly.
But Limon wouldn’t die.
So after 15 minutes, Rivera Gracias allegedly went and grabbed a knife from the house while Nunez-Soto held Limon. Rivera Gracias came back to the RV and allegedly killed Limon by stabbing him nine times, Russell said.
Tina Moya and daughter, Nena, were in the house, well aware that Tina’s husband was being murdered in the RV just outside in the driveway, Russell said.
After Limon was dead, Tina and Nena helped clean up the bloody crime scene and they were aware that the two men drove the body up to Lookout Mountain to dump it, Russell said.
The next morning, Tina Moya insisted that they all drive to the spot where the body had been dumped. Once they reached the overlook, they kicked his body further down the hillside in an effort to better conceal it, Russell said.
Yet, Jefferson County sheriff’s investigators quickly unraveled the murder plot.
Six days after the killing, investigators arrested Tina Moya, Nena Moya and Nunez-Soto.
Tina Moya pled guilty to second-degree murder and one violent crime count on October 23, 2012. She was sentenced to 36 years in prison on March 20.
Nunez-Soto pled guilty to second-degree murder and one violent crime count on September 14, 2012. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison on Oct. 30.
Nena Moya pled guilty to accessory to first-degree murder. She was originally granted participation in a jail diversion program, but later pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 2 years in the Division of Youth Corrections.
Until Wednesday, Rivera Gracias had remained on the run since the killing, authorities said.
"I would just want justice to be served because I would be able to sleep better at night," Michelle Limon said before the fugitive’s arrest. "Knowing everyone paid for what they did."
The FBI launched an international manhunt to find Rivera Gracias. A federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest in 2011 for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Rivera Gracias claims to be a member of Mara Salvatrucha, a notorious street gang also known as MS-13 that began in Los Angeles and has roots in Central America. Officials said he has "MS-13" tattooed across his back and "503" -- the country telephone code for El Salvador -- on the back of his left arm.
Rivera Gracias is now being held in the Jefferson County Jail. He is scheduled to appear, via a video link, in Jefferson County Court Thursday, where he’ll be advised of the charges against him.