The ruling has sparked a review of the case from North Las Vegas police, which puts Luis Colon one step closer to finding clarity on his brother’s death.
In 2005, Rita Colon’s husband of less than a year died from a stab wound to the neck, which the North Las Vegas Police Department and the coroner’s office at the time determined was self-inflicted.
Luis Colon, Edwin Colon’s brother, asked the coroner’s office to take another look at the case this year, and after a review, his brother’s manner of death has been changed from “suicide” to “undetermined.”
“Some new information came to us, and we did a comprehensive review of the investigation,” Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said Thursday afternoon. “We decided that we don’t believe it’s a suicide.”
Luis Colon has told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he believes the circumstances surrounding his brother’s death are eerily similar to how Leroy Pelton, a 76-year-old former UNLV professor, was killed in Henderson in November 2016, allegedly by 44-year-old Rita Colon.
As with Edwin Colon’s case, the coroner’s office determined that Pelton died from at least one stab wound to the neck. The man also had a stab wound to his liver and defensive knife wounds on both hands.
Investigators allege that Rita Colon’s motive was monetary. They said she tried to access Pelton’s $1.1 million retirement account after he was killed, according to an arrest warrant.
The Henderson Police Department announced in January that Rita Colon, believed to be a former student and girlfriend of Pelton’s, was a suspect in the man’s death. She was apprehended in Peru in December 2017, where she remains, awaiting extradition.
‘Three fresh sets of eyes’
According to North Las Vegas police documents released in April, officers were called to the Colon home, near Ann Road and Camino Al Norte, the night of Feb. 2, 2005.
The two-page police report indicates that Edwin Colon’s wife called 911 and asked neighbors for help before police arrived.
She told detectives that he had held a knife to his neck and that she had cut her hand while trying “to get it away from him.” She said Edwin Colon, 37, then “walked into the kitchen and stabbed himself,” the report said.
North Las Vegas police spokesman Eric Leavitt said Thursday that the department is aware of the coroner’s recent findings, and detectives will now review Edwin Colon’s death to determine if a new investigation is necessary.
A sergeant will review the 2005 case records, followed by a lieutenant, then a captain, Leavitt said. The files consist of about 30 pages of autopsy photos, diagrams of the scene and witness statements.
“You’re getting, in essence, three fresh sets of eyes to look at it individually now,” he said.
Detectives may interview Rita Colon when, or if, she is extradited to Henderson for the murder charge she faces in Pelton’s death. An investigation also could prompt detectives to re-interview family, friends and the neighbors from whom Rita Colon asked for help the night her husband died.
The review could prompt a homicide investigation or a death investigation — a category used by police in cases such as apparent suicides or overdoses, when the manner of death isn’t immediately clear, Leavitt said.
If murder charges were to be brought again Rita Colon in her husband’s death, Leavitt said, “that means someone grossly missed something” in 2005.
“It’s not that we don’t want to admit we’re wrong. It’s just that if it is wrong, we need to fix it,” he said.
A step closer
After speaking with the coroner’s office Thursday, Luis Colon said knowing his brother’s body couldn’t be exhumed was difficult.
Despite his family’s wishes to bury his brother in New York, Luis Colon said Rita Colon was able to have Edwin Colon’s body cremated in 2005 because she was his next of kin. He said he recalled that at the funeral, she said that the decision “was between husband and wife, and that he wished to be cremated.”
“We were already mourning and just trying to move on,” he said Thursday. “It was a fight that we weren’t going to win.”
But Luis Colon said he was optimistic that his family is now one step closer to finding answers.
“At least I know that it’s in the process,” he said. “I do feel good. Honestly I do.”