Memorial service for Tia Poklemba
Poklemba family seeks help
Tears, hope and memories
A new charge against the suspect in the 2008 homicide of Tia Poklemba could result in the man’s extradition to the U.S. should he be captured.
Luis Gonzalez, 25, believed to be in Mexico, has been charged in a warrant for manslaughter by an intentional act, a first-degree felony. He was charged in 2008 on a warrant for leaving the scene of a fatal accident, also a first-degree felony.
Each count carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence upon conviction.
Significantly, the new charge is extraditable, according to lead detective Mike Carr of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ll have the legal requirements if in fact he’s in Mexico,” Carr said.
Poklemba’s family welcomed news of the charge and said it renews their hope for an arrest. Still, Debbie Poklemba, the victim’s mother, said she doesn’t want to get her hopes up.
“It feels great, but I’m afraid to get too optimistic,” she said.
The mother agreed with daughter Tera Oben, 33, who said the charge matters less than bringing the killer to justice.
“I just want him to be here — in jail, in Florida, I don’t care,” Oben said. “I just want him to be held responsible for what he did.”
A wounded Tia Poklemba, 25, was discovered lying in the middle of a dead-end road in San Carlos Park early on the morning of Aug. 8, 2008. Suffering deep lacerations and severe road rash, Poklemba died soon after found.
Detectives determined she had been run over twice by a car, once in drive and again in reverse. They traced her steps back to a San Carlos Park bar and into the car of Gonzalez, with whom she left the bar.
Gonzalez, now 25, lived in San Carlos Park and was supposed to be making a run to a nearby McDonald’s for his pregnant girlfriend when he met Poklemba at the bar, ostensibly for the first time.
As detectives pieced the evidence together, Gonzalez fled the area. Carr said the suspect was known to have purchased a bus ticket to Mexico, but investigators were never sure whether he had crossed the border. The suspect has family in the area, Carr said, but they have not helped investigators.
The charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident is not extraditable under the U.S. treaty with Mexico. In a January 2009 interview with the Daily News, Carr promised to up the charge to an extraditable murder count if Gonzalez didn’t turn himself in to authorities.
“It came together like I wanted it to,” he said on Monday. Central to the new charge was a tip generated from TV show America’s Most Wanted, which aired a segment on Poklemba in March. Carr said the tip suggested Gonzalez was still in Mexico, news the detective took to prosecutors, who in turn approached officials with the State Department and Department of Justice.
Convinced the new charge could lead to an extradition, prosecutors signed off on the warrant, the detective said. A spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office said the warrant followed additional information in the case and declined to elaborate.
In manslaughter by an intentional act, prosecutors must prove that Gonzalez only had an intent to commit an act which caused death, not that he actually intended to kill Poklemba.
Carr has said previously that intent is a hurdle in the case. No one knows what occurred between Poklemba and Gonzalez before the death. Evidence at the scene doesn’t explain Gonzalez’s mind-set, only the actions he is alleged to have taken.
Carr said the next stage in the case will be handled largely by federal officials.
“Inch by inch we’re going to get there,” he said.