August 8, 2013
Jim Kouri

A federal judge in New Mexico on Wednesday sentenced an illegal alien from El Salvador to 40 years in federal prison for armed robbery and felony murder, according to law enforcement officials.

Marvin Aguilar-Lopez will be deported back to El Salvador upon completion of his prison sentence, said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales in Albuquerque, N.M.

The 26-year-old Aguilar-Lopez and his accomplices -- Pablo De Leon Ortiz, 34, and Francisco Melgar-Cabrera, 30, both of El Salvador -- were indicted in October 2009, and charged with robbery, felony murder, and firearms offenses in a nine-count indictment as the result of the armed robbery of a Denny’s Restaurant located in Albuquerque and the murder of American citizen Stephanie Anderson, a restaurant worker, on June 20, 2009.

Aguilar-Lopez and De Leon Ortiz, who had been in state custody since the day of the robbery and murder, were arrested on the federal charges on Oct. 19, 2009.

On April 14, 2010, a 10-count superseding indictment was filed adding Jose “Tito” Humberto Melgar-Cabrera, the brother of Francisco Melgar-Cabrera, as a defendant.

Jose Melgar-Cabrera was charged for being an accessory after the fact for assisting Francisco Melgar-Cabrera in evading capture by police, and he was arrested on April 21, 2010.

A 14-count second superseding indictment that was filed on Oct. 14, 2010, added four new robbery and firearms offenses against De Leon Ortiz, Aguilar-Lopez and Francisco Melgar-Cabrera. The new charges stem from the armed robbery of the Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon also located in Albuquerque on June 13, 2009.

On Sept. 30, 2011, Aguilar-Lopez entered guilty pleas to counts three and four of the second superseding indictment charging him with the armed robbery of the Denny’s Restaurant, and the felony murder of Ms. Anderson.

His sentencing had been delayed by competency proceedings which concluded with judicial findings of legal competency.

Francisco Melgar-Cabrera has yet to be apprehended and is considered a fugitive.

In a biting editorial on May 8 in the Albuquerque Journal, the newspaper stated:

Federal officials say they know where Melgar-Cabrera is in El Salvador. They need to consider dropping the death penalty in his case and adhering to a 70-year sentencing cap if it will get Salvadoran officials to approve an arrest warrant and help bring him to justice. He’s 29, and incarcerating him until he’s 99 — if he makes it that long — and then kicking him out of the country seems reasonable.

And if El Salvador still balks, perhaps U.S. officials should reconsider the $41.8 million in bilateral assistance the Obama administration requested pre-sequestration for that country.

Four years have passed since the 34-year-old Anderson, who was working to become a pharmacy technician, was shot and killed for simply going to work to help realize her professional dream. Federal officials need to do what’s necessary to bring the last defendant in her senseless death to justice.