SACRAMENTO — They are all Latino, all are accused of brutal murders years ago, all of their alleged crimes were committed in the Bay Area and all may have fled to Mexico.

They comprise California's little-known "Featured Wanted Persons," reminiscent of the familiar FBI "Most Wanted" list.

The state list has been posted on Attorney General Bill Lockyer's Web site for the public and is immediately available in data banks to any law enforcement officer in the field.

But officials say that if the suspects are in Mexico, even if they are known to authoritiesthere, they face little threat of being returned to California. Mexico's high court has ruled that extraditing suspects who could face the death penalty is in violation of that country's constitution.

The ruling and a decades-old treaty has caused considerable friction between the United States and Mexico.

California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a longtime advocate for changes, said, "If you steal a car in the U.S., Mexico will return you to face prosecution and punishment. But if you kill the driver, Mexico will protect you."

The clash between U.S. and Mexican authorities has been particularly acute in Southern California due to the number of cases.

But California's current "Featured Wanted Persons," part of a broader online list, all committed crimes in the Bay Area — Berkeley, Newark, Richmond and Sonoma and San Joaquin counties.

The state Attorney General's Office could not say for sure whether it was coincidence, a confluence of factors, or both.


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They are on the featured list, in part, because "the most serious crimes are the ones that go up there," said Robin Schwanke, an AG spokeswoman. Many of the crimes have gone unpunished for years.

"Also, if a law enforcement agency wants it on our Web site, they send it to us," Schwanke said. "It could be that the agencies in the Bay Area are utilizing the Department of Justice resources more than others."

"And it's not race specific or anything like that," she said.

The five "Featured Wanted Persons" are:

-Agapita Chavez Ramirez, 46, a former farm laborer, office worker and receptionist. Authorities say that on Dec. 8, 1983, she shot a pregnant woman in San Joaquin County, killing the woman and her unborn child. The suspect believed the woman was having an affair with her husband. She fled with her three children.

-Juan Rivera Perez, 28. Police say that on Dec. 19, 1996, the suspect was thrown out of a club in Berkeley. He returned with a friend and was denied entry. He pulled a handgun and shot the victim — the club owner — in the head.

-Antonio Magdaleno Rodriguez, 62. Authorities say the suspect was involved in a Newark bar fight. He pulled a handgun and shot the victim multiple times. A warrant for his arrest was issued Aug. 9, 1995. The suspect fled to Mexico.

-Fredy Humberto Chavez, 40. Police say the suspect got into an argument with a friend in Richmond over the suspect making a pass at the friend's girlfriend. The suspect stabbed the victim several times and fled to Mexico. A warrant was issued on Aug. 22, 1995.

-Alvaro Gudino, 30. Officials say the suspect is wanted for two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in Sonoma County. The victims were shot multiple times with a handgun. A warrant was issued Aug. 31, 1995. He is believed to be in Mexico.

In each case, the public is warned that the suspects may be armed and dangerous, not to attempt to apprehend them and to contact authorities.

Though the Mexican Supreme Court recently rescinded its earlier ban on extradition for crimes punishable by life without possibility of parole, Mexico's prohibition against extradition stands for those charged with first-degree murder — a crime that might result in the death penalty.

In addition, under the U.S.-Mexico Extradition Treaty, which went into effect in 1980, neither Mexico nor the United States is bound to deliver its nationals for extradition and both countries may refuse to extradite unless the country seeking extradition assures that it will not impose the death penalty.

Feinstein, in calling on President Bush recently to lean on Mexico for changes, said "criminals should not be allowed to escape justice in the U.S. for the price of a bus ticket to Mexico."

Contact Sacrament Bureau Chief Steve Geissinger at sgeissinger@angnewspapers.com.