Suspect Confesses in Decade-Old Murder - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/13/05

Suspect Confesses in Decade-Old Murder

Cold Case is a wildly popular hit CBS television show. But Port Wentworth has a real-life cold case that's even more fascinating, a ten-year-old murder. Both victim and suspect the kind of people who come and go and are hard to track.

But persistent police work and some luck cracked the town's oldest unsolved murder.

Port Wentworth police have been looking for Juan Naranjo for a decade. Police say on July 4, 1995, he killed Jose Herbert.

"He was shot twice with a high-powered rifle," said Lt. Greg Long.

It happened at Layton Apartments on Cross Gate Road. Herbert was living in the upstairs apartment when he was killed. Police say he was living alone and was an illegal immigrant. He had no family in Port Wentworth then or now.

Lt. Long says, within days of the murder, he knew who the suspect was. But because he was an illegal immigrant, they had no way to track him.

Then last week they got the an incredible break, one they'd been waiting a decade for. "Mr. Naranjo was operating a motor vehicle in Virginia Beach and driving under the influence and drove into a ditch," Lt. Long told us.

Virginia police put him in jail and the next day Naranjo was in court. "The judge asked him, 'Do you have any outstanding warrants or legal obligations I need to know about?' and that's when he confessed about his real name and that he was wanted for murder in Georgia," Lt. Long said.

Lt. Long went to Virginia to interview him. "He was 17 when the crime happened. He is 27 now and one of the statements he made was every time a police car pulled in behind him, every time a knock on the door or when he walked down the street and he didn't know if the police were looking for him or not and he just got tired of living that way."

Police say he also told them why he did it. "They were drinking. Allegedly it was over a bicycle."

A cold case, finally solved.

Naranjo's extradition hearing is Monday in Virginia. Then Chatham sheriff's deputies will pick him up and bring him back.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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