CALDWELL -- After waiting nearly two decades, the family of a murdered man finally saw his killer brought to justice in court on Tuesday. Ignacio Rivera was murdered on Thanksgiving in 1995. Soon after, prosecutors say their suspect ran and didn't have to face his crime until this year.
Rivera was murdered on November 23, 1995. Prosecutors say he was gunned down in Farmway Village in Caldwell. Rivera was shot in the chest and arms. Just days after the murder, the Canyon County Sheriff identified Jose Flores as the suspect, but prosecutors now say he was on the run to Mexico.
Later the next year, Flores popped-up in a South Carolina prison convicted of sexual misconduct and sentenced to 30 years.
"Detectives go down and chat with him down in South Carolina from Canyon County. They chat with him, get statements from him," current Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor said. "A criminal charge and a warrant is put out for his arrest, but it's never served on him. So for the past 17 years, while he's been in South Carolina, no one ever brought him back to Canyon County."
Flores was extradited in the last year thanks in large part to work by the Canyon County Cold Case Task Force, formed only two years ago.
"Detectives and investigators came together, put a lot of time and resources to provide the closure for the family," Taylor said.
Rivera's widow, son and daughter were in court to say what the years since 1995 were like without him.
"At a young age, I became so old. After high school, instead of going to college like I had planned, I had to work to support my siblings and my mother without anyone's help," Rivera's daughter read from a prepared letter.
Flores cried in court, and he apologized for what happened. His attorney told the judge he began trying to take accountability for the shooting since 1996. The defense attorney said there is some dispute about how the shooting happened, that Flores says the two were fighting over a gun when it went off.
"The only thing I can say is I feel really sorry. I feel sorry for what happened and how it happened," Flores said. "I feel real, real sorry. I hope the family forgives me for what happened, and that's all I can say."
His daughter told the judge an apology wouldn't be enough.
"The only thing I wish not to hear is the defendant to say he's sorry. Because I don't believe him," Rivera's daughter said.
Flores pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison without parole. Prosecutors hope closing this cold case will begin to close a dark chapter for a family that's waited so long for justice.
"They haven't been able to even celebrate a Thanksgiving with this hanging over their entire family. It's this black cloud that will never go away, and I'm hoping that this sense of closure today kind of moves that cloud," Taylor said.
Because Flores is still serving time for his other conviction, Flores will now go back to a South Carolina prison. If he is paroled, prosecutors say federal immigration authorities plan to deport him back to Mexico where he is a citizen.