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Past Indictments Finally Catch Up to Texas Fugitive

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas -- When Rio Grande City police busted a drug load on March 13, they arrested a man who managed to avoid prosecution for two felony charges for 11 years.

Investigators for Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which took over the March 13 case, say Ediel Tejada was driving a white Chevy pick-up while scouting for the Pontiac Grand Prix carrying 457 pounds of marijuana. Tejada faces a felony possession of marijuana charge stemming from the incident and remains in the Starr County Jail.

But that is not the only felony charge Tejada faces. Somehow, he has avoided facing previous indictments.

In 2002, a grand jury indicted Tejada on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after authorities said he hit Seferino Garza with his vehicle, according to court records. In June 2002, the court notified Tejada that his arraignment was set for August 1, 2002.

But somehow, the case remained dormant until Oct. 1, 2007 when the arraignment was rescheduled for November 2007. Tejada did not show up and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Nothing further was filed with the case.

Heriberto Silva, the District Attorney at the time, said Tejada had gone to Mexico, but would not comment further. He referred all other questions to the current District Attorney Omar Escobar, who took office in January.

Tejada is the nephew of David Bazan, a Starr County man who recently pleaded guilty in federal court to running a cocaine smuggling operation.

In the spring of 2006, a grand jury indicted Tejada with a count of attempted kidnapping after authorities said he struck Martin Martinez and told someone else to take him to Mexico and make him disappear, according to the indictment. But after Tejada waived his arraignment, again nothing was done with the case until it was moved to a different court in February 2011.

A status report hearing was scheduled for March 26, 2012, but Tejada didn't show and the court issued another warrant for his arrest. Nothing else happened with the case, according to the file.

In 2006, Tejada also was arrested for arson, but was not indicted, Escobar said.

On July 31, 2012, Tejada was sentenced to 10 years probation after he pleaded guilty to a deadly conduct charge in Hidalgo County.

Ismael Diaz, who mowed Tejada's lawn, said when he came to Tejada's house in Pharr to collect his payment on Nov. 16 2011, Tejada hit him and shot a handgun near his feet three or four times, according to the report Diaz supplied to the police.

Tejada told police that Diaz was in his backyard banging at his door and kicking it. He said Diaz was mad and yelling at him. Tejada said Diaz had an unknown black object in his hand and fearing for his safety he pushed Diaz and shot twice at the ground to scare him off, according to the report.

Pharr police found more than $64,000 in cash in Tejada's house, and he also faced a money laundering charge in the case, but the charge was not prosecuted when Tejada pleaded guilty to deadly conduct.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said whenever someone is booked in the county jail, officers run the offender's information through local, state and national databases to see if they have any outstanding warrants. He checked the records for the two times Tejada was in the Hidalgo County Jail, for the deadly conduct charge and for a drug possession misdemeanor in 2009.

"Both times he was picked up both into our facility we have a section that we check off to see he is wanted in other jurisdictions," he said. "It shows that we did our finger print check, we did our computer check and nowhere does it show that he was wanted in Starr County."

Trevino said Starr County probably never put the warrants into the database.

The marijuana possession charge violates the terms of Tejada's probation on the deadly conduct charge. Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said his office will wait for the resolution of the Starr County case before deciding what to do about the violation.

Escobar said he plans to pursue the assault and attempted kidnapping charges along with the recent possession charge. He has asked that Tejada not be let out on bond.

Copyright 2013 - The Monitor, McAllen, Texas

McClatchy-Tribune News Service