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Crime & Justice

Jose Luis Saenz, on the FBI's most wanted list, appears in downtown LA courtroom

Alleged murderer Joe Luis Saenz has been captured by the FBI.
Alleged murderer Joe Luis Saenz has been captured by the FBI.

Jose Luis Saenz, fresh off an appearance in a Pomona courtroom Monday, appeared in Downtown L.A. on Tuesday to face three additional murder charges.

Saenz, who spent 14 years on the run, peered out from the defendant's box. Most of the people in the crowded courtroom—friends and relatives of other defendants awaiting court appearances—had no idea that the stout man in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit had been one of the FBI's top 10 most wanted fugitives until last Thursday.

Saenz is accused of murdering three people within two weeks in 1998. For one of them, the mother of his child, he is also accused of kidnapping and sexual assault. Saenz did not enter a plea; he's expected back in court December 17 in Downtown L.A. 

Mexican authorities arrested Saenz on Thanksgiving Day after they'd hunted him for years. Then they handed Saenz, an American citizen from East L.A., over to U.S. authorities.

FBI officials said that after his arrest last week, Saenz, whom they say used many aliases, gave his name as Giovanni Torres.  His 1998 arrest warrant names "Joe" Luis Saenz. During the court hearing Tuesday, L.A. Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba asked him his true name, and he loudly replied "Jose." 

At a press conference Monday, FBI officials said they believe Saenz may have worked for a Mexican drug cartel and that upcoming court proceedings could provide insights into how the organizations work.