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Former Salvadoran Official Wanted In Priest Killings Found In Mass.04:12

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A human rights group has discovered that a suspect in the 1989 slaying of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador has been living here in Everett.

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) in San Francisco says Inocente Orlando Montano helped organize the clergy killings. He's now among 20 former military officers charged with crimes against humanity and state terrorism in the case. At the time of the murders, El Salvador was in the midst of a 12-year civil war between government and rebel forces.

Fugitive Inocente Orlando Montano has apparently been living in this Irving Street house in Everett. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)
Fugitive Inocente Orlando Montano has apparently been living in this Irving Street house in Everett. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)

At 31 Irving St. in Everett, a woman who answered an apartment door identified herself as Maria Montano, the fugitive's sister-in-law. Speaking in Spanish, she called him an upright, honorable person. She insisted the indictment charging him with conspiring to carry out the priest killings is wrong and claimed he returned to El Salvador within the last week.

It took two human rights groups — CJA and a group in Spain — to push forward with a lawsuit that led to indictments in the priest massacre. The Spanish National Court started issuing the indictments in 2008. A United Nations truth commission had previously named Montano and others in the crime.

Then last year, Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer for CJA, received a tip from someone in the Salvadoran community in Massachusetts that Montano was living here.

"They told me that they believe that he had been there for years," Bernabeu said. "And then it was through using some support from a private investigator that I was able to determine an address."

Montano even traveled back to El Salvador earlier this year, according to Bernabeu, for the funeral of one of the others indicted in the crime.

"We were able to confirm that he traveled freely, when the arrest warrant against him had already been requested and issued. He came back into the United States and just easily went to his address in Everett," Bernabeu said.

Residents on Irving Street can't believe a man wanted for crimes against humanity was their neighbor.

"I see him — very nice, very polite, nice person," Anna Perlera said.

Simone Cunha said she feels "scared right now about everything" after learning Montano was living next door.

The Spanish court requested and received a provisional arrest petition for Montano from the U.S. Justice Department, according to Bernabeu. But he remains at large. Nine of his co-defendants turned themselves in to authorities in El Salvador last week.

This program aired on August 17, 2011.

Lynn Jolicoeur Twitter Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.