Lehigh Valley

Detective's obsession with homicide case puts family at ease

Detective's obsession with homicide case puts family at ease

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - What does it take to catch an accused killer?

Investigators said good old-fashioned police work and persistence helped them finally close the book on a homicide case in Bethlehem nearly 19 years later

The 1994 killing of Jorge Velasquez reads like a classic novel.

"This one you might say the white whale because we knew who did it," said Detective Mark Diluzio, Bethlehem Police Dept.

It wasn't a "who done it," but a "when we get our hands on you" case, said Diluzio, adding that the facts are clear.

Witnesses told police they saw Francisco Miranda, then 30, fatally stab Velasquez early one morning after a dominoes game, but Miranda disappeared before police could nab him.

For Diluzio, the hunt for his "great white whale" began in 2000 when he moved from being a vice detective to homicide investigator, making calls to friends relatives acquaintances neighbors.

Then in 2008, someone Diluzio interviewed several times before suddenly remembered something, and Miranda was located in the Dominican Republic.

Diluzio worked closely with agents from the U.S. Marshal's Service, the Department of Justice and Dominican police to track Miranda's movements and take him down.

Every move the agencies made had to follow international protocol and be documented in reams of paperwork, Diluzio said.

Miranda was arrested in November and extradited to Pennsylvania last week. He now sits in a Northampton County jail cell, awaiting trial.

"The best feeling comes when you let the parents of the deceased person know," said Diluzio.

"My family has been waiting for this moment for 20 years, you know, to bring closure to what happened," said Rene Velasquez, brother of the victim.

Now, Diluzio is hoping persistence will pay off on another cold case -- the 1979 killing of Bethlehem teen Holly Branagan. He said he will keep working the case in the hopes of bringing closure and justice to another family.

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