Updated September 22, 2020 - 4:29 pm
An arrest warrant for Carlos Figueroa on a murder charge was granted last year, but he was able to escape from federal custody last week after the Bureau of Prisons admitted him to a re-entry program in Las Vegas, court records show.
The 38-year-old, who was arrested again Friday, has been charged with murder in the death of 29-year-old Natelie Carbajal, whose burnt body was found near the Seven Magic Mountains art installation on July 4, 2019. Within a week of Carbajal’s death, police began investigating Figueroa — the woman’s boyfriend and father of her child — and he was later arrested on a federal parole violation in connection with a weapons charge, court records show.
Carbajal’s family was told that Figueroa was accidentally released from federal custody last week, when he should have been extradited, the woman’s aunt, Dee Yera, told the Review-Journal on Tuesday.
She said a law enforcement official arrived at Carbajal’s grandmother’s house to warn her that Figueroa was on the run in Las Vegas.
In the past year, Figueroa has been held in a California federal prison in connection with the parole violation. Carbajal’s family believed he was going to be extradited months ago, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the process, Yera said.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Larry Hadfield said Tuesday that while the murder charge was approved while Figueroa was in federal custody, the Clark County district attorney’s office had “decided to wait on prosecution” until his federal sentence had been served.
“It should also be noted the reason his parole was violated and he was in custody was because we were in communication with his parole officer on (July 9, 2019) about him being a suspect in the murder,” Hadfield said in an emailed statement.
In August, Figueroa was approved for a spot in the GEO Care Residential Reentry Center in Las Vegas, and he flew to the valley on Sept. 15, according to federal court records.
But he never went to the re-entry center. According to a criminal complaint, Figueroa was alone when he arrived at McCarran International Airport.
The Bureau of Prisons on Tuesday declined to answer questions about Figueroa’s placement into the facility, stating in an email that the agency “cannot speak specifically to the circumstances relating to an individual inmate’s placement.”
Hadfield said that Figueroa was “released” on Sept. 15, and that Metro was notified of the release through fax the following afternoon.
Las Vegas’ FBI office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
On Friday, an FBI SWAT team and criminal apprehension team arrested Figueroa following a “standoff” at an apartment at 2341 Wooster Circle, near Jones Boulevard and Smoke Ranch Road, according to an arrest report.
Knowing that Figueroa is once again in custody won’t bring Carbajal back, but Yera said she’s glad to know that he’s “off the streets.”
“We don’t want any other family to suffer what we’ve gone through again,” she said.
Investigation into Carbajal’s killing
The Clark County coroner’s office last year ruled Carbajal died of a gunshot wound to the head. Her burnt body was “unrecognizable” when it was discovered still on fire on July 4, 2019, according to Figueroa’s arrest warrant.
Five days after the gruesome discovery, Metro received an anonymous tip that the woman found was Carbajal, and that her boyfriend had “shot (her) in the head before dumping her in the desert.”
While searching Figueroa’s apartment on July 10, 2019, police found evidence the home had been cleaned. Figueroa was arrested that day in connection with his federal probation violation, and while he admitted to arguing with Carbajal on July 4 about their child, he “denied having any involvement in the murder,” the warrant said.
Police also spoke with Figueroa’s brother, who said that, in jail calls between the two, they discussed Figueroa taking a gun and killing Carbajal, the warrant said.
His arrest warrant was granted on July 30, 2019, according to Las Vegas Justice Court records.
It’s not the first time Figueroa has faced a murder charge. In 2015, he was arrested on suspicion of murder in the death of 42-year-old Jose Martinez, who was shot and killed on June 17, 2014, in central Las Vegas, court records show.
Witnesses reported seeing Figueroa shoot Martinez twice on the side of the road on the 1000 block of North Decatur Boulevard. After he fell to the ground, Figueroa “stood over him and fired one more round into Martinez’s head,” according to an arrest report.
Another witness said Figueroa told him he had shot a man he believed had “molested” Figueroa’s friend’s teenage sister, the report said. Detectives believed Figueroa mistook Martinez for the other man.
Figueroa pleaded to a lesser felony of voluntary manslaughter, and he was sentenced to one to four years in prison, court records show.
His arrest history in Clark County dates to 2003, and he has been convicted of other felonies including drug trafficking and battery which constitutes domestic violence, court records show.
Figueroa remained in the Clark County Detention Center on Tuesday without bail. He is due to appear in court Wednesday morning in the murder case.
Although he has been charged in federal court with escape, it was unclear Tuesday when he will next appear in that court for the federal case.