Suspect in 1999 Des Plaines slaying captured in Mexico, extradited to U.S.

Following a lengthy international manhunt, the man suspected of murdering a Des Plaines woman 21 years ago has been arrested and returned to the U.S., police announced Thursday.

Luis Rodriguez-Mena, 46, formerly of Des Plaines, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the 1999 slaying of 30-year-old Young Kavila.

Kavila was found stabbed to death in an apartment she shared with a fellow flight attendant.

Police believe the killing may have been a crime of opportunity. Both Rodriguez-Mena and Kavila lived in the Colonial Park Apartments complex off Elmhurst Road.

Rodriguez-Mena had been wanted in connection with the slaying since 2008, a year after a relative came forward with information linking him to the killing.

Rodriguez-Mena was arrested in June in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he'd been living. The FBI and Interpol had tried several times to grab him over the years but were unable to do so until this summer because his family kept moving him around Mexico, Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner said during a news conference Thursday at city hall.

"They kept hiding him," Kushner said. "His family was most uncooperative."

Rodriguez-Mena was turned over to Des Plaines police Tuesday at O'Hare International Airport. His return to the U.S. was delayed because of the extradition process, police said.

Rodriguez-Mena spoke to Des Plaines detectives for about 30 minutes before requesting a lawyer, Kushner said. The former fugitive didn't say anything of interest, he added.

At a court hearing Thursday, Rodriguez-Mena was ordered held without bail in the Cook County jail.

Kavila's body was discovered by her roommate on Nov. 30, 1999, on the kitchen floor of her first-floor apartment. She was attacked shortly after returning home with sushi she'd purchased in Arlington Heights, said former Des Plaines Detective Cmdr. Randy Akin, who retired in 2015 and now serves as a police officer in Inverness.

The uneaten meal was found on the kitchen table, Akin said.

Kavila had been stabbed and slashed in the neck but also fought back, cutting her assailant with a box cutter.

"She fought valiantly," Akin said.

Because of how she was found, police also believe Kavila was sexually assaulted.

Rodriguez-Mena fled to Mexico with his then-girlfriend the day after the murder, police said. Relatives stitched wounds police believe he suffered in the attack, Akin said.

Rodriguez-Mena was identified as a suspect after a relative told police in 2007 that he had bragged about the murder and threatened to kill anyone who gave him up.

Police later tracked down Rodriguez-Mena's former girlfriend, who they said had been battered and held hostage by him and his family members until she escaped years later with their baby son. She subsequently left Mexico and returned to Chicago.

A DNA test of the couple's child linked blood found at the murder scene to Rodriguez-Mena, police have said. The samples had a 99.98% match, Kushner said.

Fingerprint evidence also tied Rodriguez-Mena to the crime, Kushner said.

Rodriguez-Mena was seen in March 2011 in Chicago, spying on his son, police once said. That child now is 18.

The murder was featured on an episode of the television show "America's Most Wanted" in 2012.

Kushner, who is retiring this month after eight years as chief in Des Plaines, praised the "tireless" work of the detectives who worked the case.

"You hate to leave anything unfinished," he said.

Akin was one of the first investigators in the apartment the night of the killing. Of all the murders Akin investigated through the years, Kavila's stood out, he said. He remained optimistic police would solve the case and put Rodriguez-Mena in handcuffs.

The arrest "closes the circle," Akin said.

The U.S. Justice Department's office of international affairs and the Mexican government assisted with the arrest.

Des Plaines murder suspect makes 'America's Most Wanted'

  Young Kavila, 30, was murdered in Des Plaines in 1999. Brian Hill/
  Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner speaks during a news conference Thursday about the arrest of a suspect in a 1999 murder. Brian Hill/
  Young Kavila was murdered in the Colonial Park Apartments in 1999. Here's the complex today. Brian Hill/
  Retired Des Plaines police detective Randy Akin speaks Thursday during a news conference announcing the arrest of a suspect in the 1999 murder of Young Kavila. Brian Hill/
  Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner on Thursday announced the arrest of Luis Rodriguez-Mena for the 1999 slaying of a woman in a city apartment complex. Rodriguez-Mena fled to Mexico after the slaying, police said. Brian Hill/
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