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Fugitive Charged With Murdering Coral Gables Girlfriend

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South Florida Crime

CORAL GABLES (CBS4)- A fugitive recently extradited from Philadelphia to South Florida has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his live-in girlfriend, an American Airlines employee, according to court records.

The murder charge against Joel Rodriguez, 49, who also worked for the airline, is the latest development in the case of Ruth Delia Fuentes, 49. She was found shot in the head and chest in their Coral Gables home on Jan. 21.

During police questioning after his capture in February, Rodriguez said he and Fuentes were arguing at home on Jan. 18, possibly the night she was killed, but he didn’t remember whether he had killed her, according to a police affidavit.

He told police he “blacked out” that night, and when he recovered, he drove to Miami Beach to buy drugs and then trekked to New Jersey, where his relatives and ex-wife live. Then he checked into a mental-health facility in Philadelphia.

A fugitive unit nabbed Rodriguez at the facility in early February and held him on unrelated charges. Last month, he was relocated to the Metro West Detention Center in Miami-Dade, where he is being held without bond on the murder charge.

Meanwhile, the Broward Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday said it was still investigating the slaying of Russell C. Walker, 50, an American Airlines pilot found dead inside his Pompano Beach home on Jan. 14. Like Rodriguez and Fuentes, he was based at Miami International Airport.

BSO said there was no apparent link between Rodriguez’s and Walker’s deaths.

Walker was found slain at his home in the 700 block of Southeast Seventh Avenue. Deputies had gone there to check on him after no one had seen or spoken to him in about a week.

In the Coral Gables slaying, the victim and her boyfriend had been a couple for several years.

As police investigated Fuentes’ death, they learned she had argued with him. In a police report she filed Jan. 4, she accused Rodriguez of stealing her belongings from their home.

She told friends Rodriguez was going to “kill her” for filing the report, police said.

On Jan. 12, she paid $300 to rent him a black Ford. He traveled to New Jersey and spent a few days there, records show. On Jan. 17, Rodriguez told his family he was returning to South Florida.

Despite their argument, Fuentes let him move back in because “she felt sorry for him,” her friends told police. She also worried he would kill her if she didn’t take him back, the friends said.

The couple showed up for work at the airport on Jan. 18, and were seen arguing after their shifts, police said. It was the last day anyone saw Fuentes alive.

That night, Rodriguez stopped at a Miami Walgreens drugstore to buy a car cellphone charger. Then he drove the Ford back to New Jersey, where he stayed at a hotel and took a taxi to his mother’s home, police said. During his travels, he used Fuentes’ debit card several times.

In early February, a fugitive task force arrested him at the Philadelphia mental-health center. Rodriguez was held on charges of armed aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a handgun at his ex-wife and threatening to kill her, police said. Rodriguez said two firearms normally were in the Coral Gables home: Fuentes’ .380-caliber gun and his own .40-caliber gun. He said he did not know where they were.

A police criminologist determined Fuentes was killed by two .40-caliber bullets and one .380-caliber bullet, a police report said.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Sun Sentinel contributed material for this report)

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