- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Susana Martinez has renewed a request that the Obama administration try to extradite from Cuba the last living suspect in the 1971 shooting death of a New Mexico state police officer.

Previous attempts by state officials were unsuccessful, but now President Barack Obama’s move to thaw U.S. relations with Cuba has given some who have fought for justice new hope.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1B68NRE ) that Martinez sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder asking for them to push for the return of Charlie Hill.

“New Mexicans need your help to bring closure to the family of a New Mexico state police officer gunned down by fugitives who have used Cuba as a sanctuary from justice for 43 years,” Martinez wrote. “With your help we may finally be able to bring a cop killer to justice.”

Martinez noted that murder and federal hijacking charges against Hill are “active, remain pending, and will be pursued by both federal and state authorities” if Hill is extradited.

Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., and Steve Pearce, R-N.M., also say the administration should push for Hill’s return.

New Mexico state policeman Robert Rosenbloom was gunned down in November 1971, along the side of Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque after he radioed that he was stopping a car for a routine check.

Fingerprints found the next morning in an abandoned car led to the issuance of murder warrants for Hill, Michael Finney and Ralph Goodwin, who were all in their early 20s at the time.

Police said the car contained numerous pieces of literature, including pamphlets for the Republic of New Africa, a movement dedicated to establishing a separate black nation in the south.

Three weeks after Rosenbloom’s slaying, the men escaped an extensive manhunt by bounding up a Trans World Airlines stairway at the Albuquerque International Sunport and hijacking an aircraft. The flight had originated in Phoenix and was headed for Chicago and then Washington. Instead, the men reportedly forced the pilot to fly them to Florida, where they dropped off all 43 passengers and loaded the airplane with fuel. They continued to Havana.

Finney and Goodwin later died in Cuba.

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas remains hopeful Hill will be extradited, especially for the sake of Rosenbloom’s family. He said State Police officers have painstakingly crafted a case against Hill that’s ready for prosecution.

Kassetas called Hill a coward and said state police have not forgotten.

“I realize that Cuba, as a government, has every right to provide asylum. But the reality is that Charlie Hill has never faced a judge and a jury,” he said. “It’s frustrating that he’s 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. He’s so close, yet so far away.”

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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