Tara Cleveland (pictured above) was a beauty queen who won several local competitions in Las Vegas. In 1994, she had just started a job at the "Imperial Palace" hotel when she became the victim of "road rage murder."
Tara had just gotten off work when she was involved in a fender-bender, there was a confrontation, the driver of the other car became angry, took out a gun and shot her point-blank in the face, killing her.
Her killer fled to Mexico and was on the run for 12 years until his recent capture. Tara's funeral was fit for a queen, attended by thousands, including models, beauty queens and Joe Jackson.
BLACK BEAUTY QUEEN'S MURDERER IN CUSTODY:
Police say that Tara Cleveland was driving home from her new job as a Las Vegas cocktail waitress on December 17, 1994. The beauty pageant queen and UNLV student was stopped on Las Vegas Blvd when she was hit by a car that ran a red light. Cops say when the driver sped off, Cleveland drove after the car, perhaps in an attempt to get the plate number.
Things turned ugly when Tara caught up to the two men and confronted them in the street. That's when police say that Joseph Villezcas (pictured above) pulled out a shotgun and killed Tara Cleveland.
Police later retrieved Cleveland's car on a route headed towards Mexico, but there were few leads until Las Vegas detectives went to America's Most Wanted. When AMW aired some possible last names of the suspect, tips came in pointing cops towards Villezcas.
When cops followed the trail to Villezcas' home, his mother said they were too late, he had already skipped town to Mexico. However, detectives would also soon find Villezcas' partner-in-crime, Fernando Garcia, who admitted to cops that he was the driver of the car and Villezcas was the shooter.
Yet, the Las Vegas District Attorney's Office needed more information to bring charges against Garcia and Villezcas and that would come almost two years after Tara Cleveland's death. A witness identified both Villezcas and Garcia and both men were charged with murder.
For years, Garcia has been helping authorities try to track down Villezcas as part of a plea bargain. Unfortunately, police say that getting the Mexican authorities to help in apprehending Villezcas has been the biggest hindrance in putting him behind bars.
Since the United States has no extradition treaty with Mexico, authorities are at the mercy of Mexican officials. Cops say the process has been a slow one.
Nevertheless, since America's Most Wanted started airing information regarding Villezcas, multiple tips have come in alerting authorities to his whereabouts. Most recently, he was spotted in Mexico's San Luis Potiosi state and police believe that he is still in Mexico and is close to being caught.
Murder Suspect Finally In US Custody: The December 1994 murder of UNLV student and beauty queen Tara Cleveland had police and family looking for her killer for over a decade. Now, cops say that the hunt is over as they've located and apprehended the man they believe pulled the trigger, Joseph Javier Villezcas.
Despite narrowly evading capture back in 2005, the man police believe killed a UNLV college student is finally behind bars and on United States soil. Joseph Javier Villezcas has been a wanted man since the tragic shooting death of Tara Cleveland back in December 1994. Police say he has been hiding in Mexico for years.
The FBI and Mexican authorities almost had Villezcas, who was living under a fake name with a false Mexican birth certificate despite being a United States citizen. When investigators discovered Villezcas' new identity, it was just a matter of time until they found him.
Police say that happened on June 6, 2006, when a joint venture between the FBI and Mexican authorities tracked Villezcas to Hermosa, Mexico. Villezcas was arrested and handed over to US authorities a little before midnight. He is currently in prison in Santa Cruz County, Arizona awaiting extradition to Nevada.
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