SOUTH PASADENA — Everything appeared normal between the two friends on their last night together — they went to a baby shower, then met up with friends for drinks at a restaurant.
“Everything seemed to be fine,” sheriff’s Detective Karen Shonka said, when the two left a Los Angeles restaurant shortly after 2 a.m. Nov. 22.
But at about 4:20 a.m., a South Pasadena police officer noticed a car parked in the 1000 block of Arroyo Drive with the windows fogged, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Lilian Peck said.
A man in the driver’s side rolled down the window and spoke briefly with the officer in a thick Spanish accent that was difficult to follow, saying something about a girlfriend, Shonka said.
That’s when the man suddenly got out and ran away. He wasn’t found after a search of the area, she said.
Inside the car, police found the body of 35-year-old Noe Martinez-Quinone of Los Angeles. He had been shot in the head, Shonka said.
“We don’t know what the motive was,” she said. “We don’t know exactly where he was shot or when, but it was inside the vehicle.”
Now police have identified the man seen with Martinez-Quinone that night at the baby shower and the restaurant as the main suspect in his death. An arrests warrant has been issued for Juan Carlos Perez, 33, of Los Angeles, authorities said.
Investigators sought the public’s help Wednesday in tracking Perez down, releasing a photograph of the suspect.
The car with the body in it was registered to Perez, and police dogs were able to track the trail of the fleeing suspect, Shonka said.
“We trailed him for almost three miles, not knowing where the suspect lived at the time, right to the block where he lived,” Shonka said.
Martinez-Quinone was a Guatemalan national who had been living in the United States for more than a year, Shonka said.
Perez is a Mexican national with ties in Guatemala, Mexico and border towns throughout California, Arizona and Texas, authorities said. He is also believed to have ties to human smuggling.
He is considered “armed and dangerous,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Anyone who sees him should call 9-1-1 immediately, officials said, and anyone with information about his whereabouts was asked to call the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
*PHOTO of Juan Carlos Perez courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.