| VailDaily.com

Triple murder suspect caught in Vail Valley taken back to California

GYPSUM — A murder suspect caught Thursday in Eagle County following a high-speed chase was on his way back to California by Friday afternoon.

Eagle County authorities accommodated the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and moved Louis Gabriel Lucero’s first Eagle County court appearance to Friday morning, The California authorities took him back to San Bernardino County to face charges of murdering his on-again/off-again girlfriend Erlinda Villareal and her two young sons, ages 9 and 12.

Lucero, 35, is accused of killing all three early Wednesday morning and dumping their bodies in the desert about 12 miles from the Victorville, California home he sometimes shared with Villareal. He fled east, stealing vehicles along the way, including three vehicles in Colorado, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.

His last auto theft was around 11:30 a.m. Thursday in Dotsero in western Eagle County, where he allegedly stole a car and sped east along Interstate 70. Eagle County Sheriff’s deputies and officers from other Eagle County agencies chased him at speeds above 100 mph. He jumped off I-70 in Dowd Junction and headed south on Highway 24 through Minturn. He crashed the car near Red Cliff and fled on foot, but was quickly caught by deputies.

In Eagle County, Lucero was charged with two counts of first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, attempting to elude, felony criminal mischief, leaving the scene of an accident, and reckless endangerment.

Lucero’s Eagle County charges will take a backseat to the three murder charges he faces in San Bernardino County, California.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department was so anxious to get Lucero back to California that officers actually flew to Eagle County Thursday night, using a plane sometimes used for prisoner transport and other duties — a 1975 twin-engine Beech Super King.

The deputies from San Bernardino County took off for California at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

California triple murder suspect caught in Vail Valley after high-speed chase

Eagle County authorities Thursday caught a triple-murder suspect from California following a high-speed chase.

Louis Gabriel Lucero, age 35, of California, allegedly stole a small pickup truck in Dotsero. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the stolen vehicle report at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, and quickly spotted Lucero as he sped along Interstate 70 toward Minturn at speeds topping 100 mph, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.

Lucero jumped off I-70 in Dowd Junction and turned south on Highway 24 toward Minturn. He abandoned his vehicle near Red Cliff and fled on foot, but didn’t get far before deputies took him into custody.

Triple murder suspect

Lucero was booked into the Eagle County jail for charges related to the alleged vehicle theft and police chase, but those are the least of his problems.

He’s suspected of murdering his on-and-off girlfriend Erlinda Villareal, 42, and her two sons, ages 9 and 12, in Victorville, California, in the desert east of Los Angeles.

San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives determined that Villareal and her two boys left the home with Lucero. They were last known to be in Villareal’s home at around 2 a.m. Wednesday, said Cindy Bachman, public information officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.

When some of Villareal’s family members could not reach her that morning, they went to her house at 11 a.m. Wednesday. They found no one home, but found evidence of a struggle. Detectives began searching immediately, Bachman said.

Just before 6 p.m. Wednesday an off-roader riding in the desert around Apple Valley spotted three deceased people and called police, Bachman said.

Homicide detectives determined that the three were Villareal and her two sons, and that they had been killed in some other location and their bodies dumped in the desert about 12 miles from Villareal’s Victorville home.

The cause of death has not been released, nor has the place Lucero allegedly killed them, Bachman said.

Lucero allegedly fled in a 2008 Ford Explorer, and likely stole cars as he headed east from San Bernardino County toward Colorado.

Because he’s being held without bond in the Eagle County jail, he’ll answer for his Eagle County charges first. After that he’ll be sent back to San Bernardino to face three murder charges, as well as motor vehicle thefts in states along the way, Bachman said.

“The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle Police Department, Avon Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and the Vail Public Safety Communication Center worked collaboratively today to ensure a peaceful resolution to this incident while maintaining the safety and security of our community and its citizens,” the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said in announcing Lucero’s arrest.