Update: West Valley City police reopen 2015 murder investigation, extradite suspect from Mexico City

Francisco Jesus Huerta-Martinez, 41, is charged with murder in connection with Maria Maricela Astorga-Chavez's disappearance and death Aug. 6, 2015. Photo: West Valley City Police Department

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, Oct. 3, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — A man accused of strangling a 32-year-old West Valley City woman and dumping her body in Colorado in August 2015 was extradited from Mexico to face charges in her death.

Francisco Jesus Huerta-Martinez, 41, was taken into custody in Mexico City in May and extradited to Utah on Friday following “a years long, exhaustive effort” by detectives, according to a statement Monday from the West Valley City Police Department.

“It is our hope that the extradition back to Utah of Francisco Huerta-Martinez this past week will help bring to a close one painful chapter for the family” of Maria Maricela Astorga-Chavez,” the statement continues.

West Valley City police reopened their investigation into Astorga-Chavez’s disappearance and death when investigators “developed new information regarding Huerta-Martinez’s whereabouts” earlier this year.

“The investigation took detectives throughout Colorado and Texas, where they collected evidence that secured the filing of the murder charges against Francisco Huerta-Martinez,” the statement continues.

The case went cold in 2019 after police “exhausted leads as to Huerta-Martinez’s whereabouts,” according to the statement.

West Valley City police say a partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service and Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office led to Huerta-Martinez being located, taken into custody and extradited to Utah.

Huerta-Martinez was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Saturday on several charges, including murder, according to the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with first-degree felony murder in October 2015 in connection with Astorga-Chavez’s death.

An autopsy concluded she died by asphyxiation due to strangulation, according to charging documents.

Family members told police Astorga-Chavez was last seen dropping off her son at her sister’s house in Salt Lake County on the evening of Aug. 6, 2015, charges state.

Astorga-Chavez told family members she would be picking up her son in the morning and then left in a white Ford Expedition being driven by Huerta-Martinez, also known as Javier Huerta, according to court documents.

On Aug. 6, 2015, Huerta-Martinez met with a friend in Fort Worth, Texas, and allegedly told them he had “strangled a person to death, wrapped the body in a blanket, and dumped the body off the side of the road in the mountains of Colorado,” court documents state.

On Aug. 16, 2015, a Colorado Department of Transportation worker discovered the body of a woman along Interstate 70 in Summit County, Colorado. The body was wrapped in two comforters and tied together using an electrical cord.

West Valley police were notified and the body was later positively identified as Astorga-Chavez, police said.

On Aug. 18, 2015, police searched Huerta-Martinez’s Salt Lake County residence and located comforter bags matching those found around the woman’s body, according to charging documents. At the time of the search, no bedding was found on Huerta-Martinez’s mattress, charging documents state.

Officers also found an iron with the cord cut off in a closet. The cord found wrapped around the woman’s body “was similar to the portion of the cord remaining on the clothing iron,” charges state.

In addition to murder, Huerta-Martinez has been charged with:

  • Aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, as police say Astorga-Chavez was wearing several rings when she disappeared that were not recovered with her body.
  • Obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.


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