‘Digital footprint’ leads to Toronto capture of Arizona fugitive on run nearly 17 years

Adan Perez Huerta, 37, of Mesa, Ariz., was arrested in Toronto and extradited Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, back to Maricopa County, where he was booked into the jail in connection with a negligent homicide conviction from March 2003. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

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Adan Perez Huerta, 37, of Mesa, Ariz., was arrested in Toronto and extradited Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, back to Maricopa County, where he was booked into the jail in connection with a negligent homicide conviction from March 2003. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

An Arizona man who fled in 2003 after pleading guilty to his role in a fatal crash has been caught in Canada after nearly 17 years on the run, and police said the suspect’s own social media posts helped them find him.

Adan Perez Huerta, 37, of Mesa, was arrested in Toronto and extradited Thursday back to Maricopa County, where he was booked into the jail to face the long-ago negligent homicide charge, The Associated Press reported. A detective with the Chandler Police Department began searching for Huerta online last spring.

"Social media always leaves a digital footprint," department spokesman Sgt. Jason McClimans told the AP in a statement.

The investigator began with social media posts by Huerta’s friends and family, which eventually led to posts by the fugitive himself, McClimans said. Huerta’s location was traced to Toronto, where officers with the Toronto Police Service tracked him down and arrested him.

U.S. marshals returned Huerta to the United States.

McClimans told the AP that authorities believe Huerta had been living in Canada for at least a year. He was using his real name prior to his arrest.

The Arizona Republic reported that Huerta pleaded guilty March 23, 2003, to negligent homicide in connection with a deadly crash the year before. He was driving a car in Chandler at 1:20 a.m. March 9, 2002, when he smashed the vehicle into an electrical box at an intersection. The car burst into flames and both Huerta, then 19, and his female passenger suffered severe burns.

Huerta’s blood alcohol concentration that morning was 0.165, more than twice the legal limit for drunken driving.

Though Huerta recovered from his injuries, his passenger, who was also 19, died nearly two months later, according to CBS 5 in Phoenix. Court records show a criminal case was filed against Huerta that October.

Following Huerta's guilty plea to negligent homicide, sentencing was scheduled for April 29, 2003. He never showed up in court, the CBS affiliate reported.

The AP reported that a Maricopa County Attorney's Office official said Huerta has so far been booked only on the outstanding homicide warrant. Additional charges may be added after a review by prosecutors.

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