California fugitive caught in Guatemala after 18 years on the run

LOS ANGELES Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:18pm EDT

1 of 2. Jeffrey Parish is pictured in Santa Barbara, California in this July 17, 2012 handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man who spent 18 years on the run from charges that he molested a 4-year-old girl has been arrested in Guatemala and returned to the United States for prosecution, authorities said on Tuesday.

Jeffrey Reed Parish, 65, was taken into custody by Guatemalan police without incident on Thursday afternoon at his home in Panajachel, about 90 miles from Guatemala City, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Eimiller said the fugitive, who was living under the assumed name "Blake," did not resist and "appeared to know why he was being arrested."

He was deported back to the United States on Saturday, accompanied by an FBI agent and a Santa Barbara County Sheriff's sergeant, she said.

Parish had been scheduled for trial in Santa Barbara Municipal Court in March of 1994 when he vanished, authorities say, and was believed to have fled across the border to Mexico.

Investigators for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and FBI began reexamining the case last year and, following a tip, tracked Parish to Guatemala.

They were assisted in the investigation and arrest by the FBI's legal attache in San Salvador and the Transnational Anti-Gang unit of the Guatemalan National Police.

Parish, who was accused of molesting a 4-year-old girl in the beachside community of Carpenteria, near Santa Barbara, was expected to be prosecuted on the original charges of lewd acts on a child and oral copulation.

A Santa Barbara County Sheriff's spokesman said authorities believe he may have molested other victims before his arrest and asked members of the public to come forward if they had information on such crimes.

It was not immediately clear if Parish had retained a lawyer in California.

Eimiller said authorities had not yet determined his whereabouts for the 18 years he was a fugitive but that it was possible he was living in Guatemala for most of that time.

(FBI corrects spelling of fugitive's name to Parish instead of Parrish)

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mary Slosson and Todd Eastham; Desking by Jackie Frank)

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