To Catch A Killer
At that point, Ray couldn't place Serrano at the airport at that particular point.
The airport parking tickets were rushed to the crime lab in Tampa. And then the proof that Tommy Ray so desperately needed surfaced: Serrano's fingerprints were found on two tickets - one of them was the ticket dated Dec. 3rd, 1997 and that was just the proof he needed.
Serrano was seen on the hotel video at 12:20 p.m. and again at 10:17 p.m.
Four long years after the Bartow homicides, Tommy Ray finally won his indictment against Nelson Serrano. But their battle of wits was hardly over. As it turns out, it had thousands of miles and many years left to go.
Serrano and his wife had returned to their native Ecuador, a country with no extradition treaty with the United States. Now the victims' families wanted to know whether Serrano would ever be held accountable for the murders.
But with Serrano out of reach, Ray was told to put the case on the back burner, and he was re-assigned to another investigation halfway across the state, in Miami.
By sheer luck, Ray was booked at a hotel hosting an international law enforcement conference, and he got a list of officials to look up in Ecuador. Ray urged his bosses to put him back on the Serrano case.
"His bosses say, 'Jesus, it's Tommy. You know him. You know, he might just, he might just pull this off.' 'Give him so more rope, let's see what happens,'" remembers Polk County State Attorney John Aguero.
In Quito, Ecuador, some 2,000 miles and a world away from central Florida, Tommy Ray was determined to arrest Serrano for the brutal murders of four people. And he wasn't about to leave without him.
48 Hours asked Ray to return to Ecuador to retrace his steps. He spent days knocking on doors at one ministry after another. His mission to Ecuador was looking like a fool's errand. Ray was told in no uncertain terms that Nelson Serrano would never be handed over.
He ignored an order from his bosses in Florida to return home, and instead set up shop at the Turtle's Head Pub, a bar for expatriates in downtown Quito.
"I just felt there was some legal loophole or something that we could find to get Nelson back," Ray remembers. It turned out to be a loophole bigger than he ever imagined.
"What he finds out is if he can show that Nelson Serrano is in fact not an Ecuadorian citizen, you might have a hope. Because then you're talking about deportation, not extradition," says Aguero.
It turns out Serrano got into Ecuador using his U.S. passport. When Serrano had obtained U.S. citizenship back in 1971, it had come at a cost - the Ecuadorian constitution had forbidden dual citizenship.
But the information was of little use, unless Serrano could be caught. Ray was told that he was living quietly in an upscale Quito neighborhood.
But Ray didn't have the authority to arrest Serrano himself. According to Ray, the local police were more than happy to help him.
"I was told that we needed about 30 off-duty Ecuador National Police. And could we assist in their off-duty salary?" Ray remembers. The off-duty salary was one dollar an hour.
A small band of off-duty policemen trailed Serrano to a restaurant which was tucked away in a local hotel.
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