In the summer of 2008, Nazira Maria Cross recruited neighbors to help her load her stricken husband Michael, a Reno car dealer, into the car so she could drive him to the hospital.
That was the last time he was seen alive. And soon, Nazira disappeared.
A six-year international fugitive hunt led by the FBI, with the help of publicity from wanted posters and segments on America’s Most Wanted, finally ended early Thursday morning with Nazira’s arrest in Peru by the country’s federal police.
The 48-year-old now awaits transfer to California’s Plumas County, a scenic, forested area near Lake Tahoe where, the FBI alleges, she poisoned her ex-husband, 55, possibly in their vacation home.
“The United States has a pending extradition request for the return of Cross,” the FBI says in a statement, “and will continue to work closely with the Peruvian government authorities, in accordance with the extradition treaty with Peru, to ensure Cross’s return to face prosecution.
A native of Costa Rica, Nazira got married in 2000 to businessman Michael, who owned Kietzke Auto Sales in Reno and Lovelock Motors in the town of Lovelock, 90 miles northeast of Reno along Interstate 80.
They divorced eight years later and Nazira moved back to Costa Rica, but she returned to the United States – and to Michael – in July 2008.
On the morning of July 31, 2008, they were in a vacation home near Frenchman Lake, a reservoir popular with anglers and campers in Plumas County, California, just west of the Nevada border, when Nazira called neighbors to say Michael was suffering a “medical problem.”
“She said Michael needed to be taken to the hospital,” Sgt. Steve Peay of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE. “The neighbors assisted her in placing him in the vehicle.”
No Hospital Record
The nearest hospitals were in Reno, 30 miles away. But when neighbors and Michael’s relatives never heard from him or Nazira, they called police, who found no record that he had been treated or admitted.
Police tracked down Nazira at Michael’s home in Reno. “Nazira gave several accounts of his whereabouts,” says Peay, “before she admitted that Michael had passed away and she had failed to report his death and had buried him.”
Police also noted that her bags had been packed and were sitting by the front door.
The body was found in a grave on his property in Lovelock. While the autopsy results were pending, Nazira disappeared, and she was charged with murder with the special circumstance alleging financial gain, from insurance and property.
“Cross allegedly poisoned her ex-husband, then drove him to Nevada where the couple owned a ranch and buried him on the property,” says the FBI statement.
A publicity blitz went worldwide, with media reports particularly focused on South America, where the FBI believed she may have fled.
“Due to recent rebroadcast of information about Cross, the FBI received information indicating that Cross was residing in Peru,” the agency says.