Getting Away With Murder

One could make the argument that the true road to normalizing relations with Cuba begins on Interstate Highway 40, west of Albuquerque at the site of a young New Mexico state trooper's death. CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports for Eye On America.

Robert Rosenbloom was shot through the throat and bled to death 26 years ago. While most of America may have forgotten what happened that day, the state of New Mexico has not.

Like every New Mexico state police director before him, Darren White has carefully preserved the evidence, and can faithfully recite the details.

On Nov. 8, 1971, Rosenbloom pulled his cruiser behind a car with three men in it. Suddenly a passing motorist saw the trooper fly through the air and crumple to the side of the road.

"His service revolver was laying on his right side, out of his holster and on the ground next to him," says White. "From looking at the photographs and reading the police reports and some of the accounts from the officers, I believe that Officer Rosenbloom was executed."

Why it happened still isn't clear, but what followed was the wildest manhunt in New Mexico history.

The three suspects - self-described revolutionaries Michael Finney, Charles Hill, and Ralph Goodwin -- all led police on a high speed chase before abandoning their car and disappearing into the desert.

They left behind weapons, 300 rounds of ammunition, several bombs, and three neatly packed bags.

Eighteen days later, they crawled out of the sand near the Albuquerque airport and rammed a stolen truck through the fence. Jumping aboard a TWA jet, they ordered it to Cuba where they were greeted as heroes.

And there they remain, along with 75 other Americans who fled to Cuba to escape justice. Finney and Hill were given state jobs. Hill even has a new family. Goodwin reportedly drowned in the 1970's while swimming off a Cuban beach.

Why is something that began 26 years ago news today? The answer is an astounding offer that's been made by one of the suspected killers.

Charles Hill now says that he might be willing to return to the United States and pay the price -- if the price is right. And the he suggests that the price for killing Trooper Robert Rosenbloom should be no more than 5 years in prison.

The people of New Mexico have a different idea.

"I want them in a courtroom," says White. "I want them held accountable, and eventually I would like to see the death penalty imposed on both of them."

And nearly every year, they write to remind Washington of that desire. The answer from Washington's has always been much the same:

"We don't have a normal relationship with Cuba and our ability to get their cooperation in this matter is certainly affected by the ack of such a normal relationship," State Department Spokesman James Rubin said at a briefing in July.

And that's where this case seemed to be stuck -- two countries not talking to each other, even when two murder suspects are offering to make a deal. Why would Cuba stand in the way of that? CBS News asked them, and received an unexpected answer.

It seems that Cuba has a murder story, too. Their victims' name is Roberto Aguilar, and he, too, was shot dead in the line of duty. He, like Rosenbloom, leaves a grieving family. And the man Cuba believes is responsible now lives free in America.

When the United States gives us our killer, Cuba told CBS News, we'll give you yours.

Watch the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather Tuesday night to see the second part of this Eye On America investigation, which chronicles one family's response to the case.

Reported By Jim Stewart
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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