Feds will review earlier case against child murder suspect

Feds will review earlier case against child murder suspect

CREATED Apr 24, 2011

Reporter: Craig Smith
Web Producer: Ina Ronquillo

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A 9 On Your Side Investigation asked why Federal prosecutors failed to pursue murder charges that against a man who ended up charged with another murder---this one of a seven year old boy.

Now it seems Federal prosecutors are asking the same questions too.

Alvin Valenzuela is charged with a sad, shocking crime killing seven year old Johnathan Federico.

KGUN9 News discovered Valenzuela had been involved in a double killing almost five years before the boy died but Valenzuela only served a relatively short time in jail.

Now Federal prosecutors will take a fresh look at that earlier case.

In 2007 Valenzuela was involved in a double murder on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Aggravated assault was the toughest charge tribal prosecutors could pursue.  Valenzuela pleaded guilty to that and enough other charges to put him away for about three years.

Tribal prosecutors are required to send more serious cases to Federal prosecutors.

Tribal prosecutors expected the US Attorney's office to push tougher charges against Valenzuela but that never happened.

Court documents about a teenager who did get a murder rap in the case indicated there wasn't enough evidence against Valenzuela.

Now a spokesman for the US Attorney's office says that old case is, "under review" to examine how the prosecutor handled the case.

The office won't elaborate or comment on the potential for stiffer charges, but former Federal prosecutor Sean Chapman says reasons to re-examine the case could include new evidence, or the feeling tribal prosecutors didn't do all they could.
Reporter Craig Smith asked Chapman: "Is is possible it could be as simple as, this man gets out of jail, gets charged with a very shocking, high profile crime and that prompts them to go back and look at this previous case?"

Chapman:"It could be as simple as that.  I think we'd be speculating a little bit.  If they view this individual as a very dangerous person, that may change their attitude and perspective on whether that original case should or should not have been prosecuted by their office."

Sources formerly in Tohono O'odham law enforcement say they did do all they could and expected Federal prosecutors to push the case aggressively.  Maybe this review will shed more light on why that didn't happen.