A Houston man who allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend in 2006 is
in the custody of Mexican law enforcement officials after being a
fugitive for more than a decade.
William Joseph Greer, 52, was arrested Tuesday after a
joint operation by the U.S. Marshals Service, the Harris County
Sheriff's Office and Mexican authorities in a remote city in the
southern Mexican state of Tabasco, law officials announced Wednesday.
"He's been a chameleon for 11 years," said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Richard Hunter.
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Greer is accused of shooting and killing his 28-year-old
girlfriend, Tammy Marie Esquivel, at their home in Spring on Dec. 19,
2006. Three days later, with the crime still undiscovered by law
enforcement officials, Cleveland police found Greer wandering in a field
half-naked and drunk, his car in a ditch. Dashcam video from the
arresting officer's vehicle recorded Greer admitting to accidentally
shooting Esquivel in the chest during a domestic argument, according to
"The gun just went off," Greer allegedly said in the video.
He was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication, but
without any evidence to substantiate the confession, officials released
him the next morning.
"We had a confession on video, but without evidence to match it, we had to let him go," said Hunter.
Body never found
The confession became evidence when Greer's sons - then 9
and 13 years old - told police Dec. 30 that Greer dragged Esquivel into
the master bedroom of the home in north Houston. The boys related how,
through the bedroom door, they heard Greer and Esquivel arguing, then a
gunshot, a gurgling sound, and Greer asking Esquivel if she was alive.
Esquivel's body has never been found.
When officials searched the home in January 2007, they
found sheets of industrial-strength plastic and enough blood to conclude
a person had been seriously injured, according to a 2016 news release
from the U.S. Marshal Service. Greer was indicted in Harris County
shortly thereafter, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. By then,
however, he'd reportedly skipped town.
At the time of his arrest, Greer was going by an alias in
remote Nacajuca, a Mexican town in the Yucatan Peninsula near the
Guatemala border. Greer, who was living there with a woman and two
children, was detained without a struggle as he left home on a scooter
to pick up the children at their school, Hunter said.
In partnership with the Mexican Attorney General's
Office, U.S. marshals identified Greer during surveillance several days
before his arrest. Greer was conclusively identified when U.S. marshals
asked him to removed his shoe, a missing toe on his left foot having
been determined to be one of his more identifiable characteristics.
Sightings of Greer were reported across the country, with
credible leads coming from Louisiana and Kentucky soon after he fled
the Houston area. Hunter said officials believe he made his way to
Mexico soon after the slaying in early 2007.
Hunter said Greer was deeply embedded in the small
community; his level of proficiency in Spanish suggested he had been in
the country for years. Locals knew him as "El Gringo" - the American.
"William Greer is a good old country boy," Hunter said. "He didn't speak a lick of Spanish before he went down there."
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said efforts are being made to locate Esquivel's next of kin.
Gonzalez said Greer is in the custody of Mexican
officials in Mexico City, where extradition procedures to return him to
Texas are underway.
Greer was listed as one of the U.S. Marshals Service's 15
Most Wanted fugitives in January 2016 and was added by Interpol to its
international fugitive database last year.
St.John Barned-Smith contributed to this report.