Pedro Aguilar

In 1996, according to police and court records, 32-year-old Mexican-born cook Pedro Aguilar shot and killed his former boss Maria Rodriguez — a restaurant owner and single mother of four who had initially befriended him but then spurned his romantic advances as he began stalking her.

Aguilar fled before he was charged with first-degree murder.

But two months later, a relative of Aguilar's gave Chicago police the address in Mexico where he was staying with his parents just south of the central Mexican city of Cuernavaca, and even provided a telephone number where he could be reached, a federal warrant shows.

Authorities failed to act then, and today, one of the eyewitnesses is incapacitated by a brain tumor, while the other has disappeared, making it unlikely that Aguilar will ever face trial, records and interviews show. Aguilar is not on a list of fugitives actively being sought in Mexico by Cook County prosecutors.

During a trip to Mexico, Tribune reporters quickly found Aguilar in the Cuernavaca suburb of Emiliano Zapata, where he moved to a spacious two-story corner home owned by his family. Additional birth records revealed that Aguilar had a daughter in June 2001 and listed that street as his address at the time.

A brother who lives a half-block away, Armando Aguilar, told Tribune reporters he had seen Pedro washing his taxi at the house just days earlier. Shown the FBI wanted poster for his brother, Armando Aguilar cursed softly and said: "I am shocked that this happened in 1996 and I didn't know about it."

Armando added that authorities have never questioned him about his brother, or approached other family members as far as he knew. "Why didn't the authorities come in 1996? If this happened then, why didn't they come?" he asked.

In Tribune interviews, Maria Rodriguez's daughters recount how their mother raised her kids to be high achievers, while running the Sabor a Mexico restaurant on North Narragansett Avenue.

The sisters desperately wrote letters to politicians and law enforcement in futile attempts to keep the cold case alive. They provided authorities with tips and crucial information about potential witnesses. But they felt that authorities discouraged them from posting and canvassing wanted fliers, saying any such action would scare away the fugitive.


David Jackson and Gary Marx, Tribune reporters,

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