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Prelim set for murder suspect Neal Putnam | Sat, Oct 22 2011 12:00 PM


A preliminary hearing has been set for Dec. 9 for a man arrested for a National City murder that occurred 25 years ago.

Efren Gutierrez "Chino" Villalobos, now 55, has pleaded not guilty to killing Jose de Jesus Romo Moreno, 22, on July 7, 1986. Moreno's body was found at 5:30 a.m. in an alley near the 400 block of East Fifth Street.

A murder charge was filed in San Diego Superior Court and a warrant was issued in 1988 for Villalobos' arrest, but he had fled to Mexico. On Sept. 6, 2011, Villalobos crossed the border from Mexico into El Paso, Texas, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested him when they ran his name through records.

Villalobos was picked up by National City Police on Sept. 26 after he was transferred to their custody. He remains in the South Bay Detention Facility on $1 million bail.

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