By Sahaily Zazueta
MODESTO, CA- A motion filed by a bail agency to extend time in a felony case where the accused has been missing for several months was denied in Stanislaus County Superior Court Friday—Maximiliano Solorio Maldonado was reported missing in Mexico by his brother in June 2021.
The case was postponed to determine if the suspect is dead.
Maldonado’s defense attorney and the bail agent have been unsuccessful in locating him in the months after his disappearance, they said. When his attorney Ryan Roth last contacted him, Maldonado told him he was on his way back to the United States.
“Last my office directly spoke with Mr. Maldonado, he was actually packed up and supposed to be heading to California and that’s when we lost contact with him. It wasn’t the type of thing where we were just waiting for him. We did speak with him directly and he said he was on his way,” said Roth, who was unable to remember the date this last conversation took place.
The State Attorney General of the State of Michoacán tweeted, asking for the public’s help in locating Maldonado in August of 2021. The attached image in the tweet lists June 6, 2021, as the date of Maldonado’s disappearance.
Mark Garcia, the bail agent in this case, was present in court to explain the lack of progress in the investigation.
In December 2021, Garcia retained investigator Ryan Smalls to coordinate an investigation in Mexico. Smalls is a former federal agent who has worked with Mexico on a consistent basis.
Garcia said the ability to coordinate with the Mexican government has been severely impacted by the pandemic and the US-Mexico border crisis.
John Rorabaugh, representing the bail agency, told the court, “We’re just asking for additional time to be able to complete that investigation because things have been… much more difficult than ordinary to do these cross-border investigations. The family is saying that he was killed by the cartel and they’re still doing some of the searching themselves.”
The declaration given to the court in December states, “[Maldonado’s brother] confirmed that a group of armed men had him in custody or kidnapped (Maldonado) and (they) had not heard back from him.”
The purpose of the investigation was to verify this information received from Maldonado’s brother.
Garcia spoke to Maldonado’s brother, the indemnitor in the case, and had been in contact with him. The two men were supposed to meet in Tijuana, but Garcia lost communication and the meeting did not happen.
As the indemnitor, Maldonado’s brother will be responsible for paying the forfeiture of $100,000 for his brother’s failure to appear.
Rorabaugh stated, “This is a defendant who had been in Mexico, who has an indemnitor with the family, who was planning on coming back and planning on meeting the bail agent when he came back, and then disappeared and neither the family nor the bail agent has heard. That’s very consistent with the defendant being killed in that journey back through the border. That’s a very common story.”
Garcia added, “This is a unique situation. I’ve been doing this for 26 years. We didn’t ask for the information, the information was given by the brother that there was a missing person report filed with the government. We thought [Maldonado] was in the border process and possibly got picked up by the federal authorities…”
The court initially extended time in this case to Dec. 13, 2021. The case has been extended an additional four months since then.
Garcia told the court, “We’re moving forward here trying to eliminate this issue that the family would have to pay a substantial amount of money if the defendant is in fact deceased…if he is deceased, why would they have to be responsible for that?”
If the motion is continued and it is proven that Maldonado is deceased, the bond would be exonerated. If the motion is denied without a continuance, then it would simply go to judgment.
Rorabaugh told the court, “At least a continuance is necessary because if we found out after today [that Maldonado is deceased], we couldn’t re-file a motion. The time would be up.”
The court had previously given the case two months from February 28 to confirm the defendant’s death.
Deputy County Counsel Shaun Wahid stated, “Time has run out. We agreed to an additional two months to have something to offer but the fact remains that there’s been no contact with this individual and he just seems to be avoiding prosecution.”
Wahid added that Maldonado had failed to appear on October 27, 2020, fled to Mexico, and then failed to appear again in early April 2021. “As far as I see it, the facts show the defendant has fled and is still fleeing.”
The court denied the motion to extend the period of time for now, with Judge Carrie Stephens stating there was no reason to believe that there would be progress in the investigation if she continued the matter.
In her justification for denying the motion to extend time, Judge Stephens stated there was no specific information explaining why the investigation efforts were impeded.
In his final comments to the court, Garcia stated, “If you are aware of the news cycle, there’s a lot of things that are going on within the US and Mexican border that have prohibited our access there.”