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OC fugitive arrested after 20-year search

March 4, 2009 | 11:33 am

A Riverside County man who escaped from a juvenile hall nearly 20 years ago while awaiting sentencing in six attempted murders was arrested today, ending a search that he dodged by allegedly using fake identities and attempting to mutilate his fingerprints.

Baldomero Johnny Diaz, 36, was taken into custody at his Menifee home and is scheduled to be turned over to the California Department of Corrections to begin serving a prison term.

Diaz’s case dates back to an October 1989 night, when he was 17 and a member of a street gang, according to prosecutors.

At a party in Santa Ana that evening, Diaz and fellow gang members got involved in a verbal argument with members of a rival gang, prosecutor say. Diaz and his fellow gang members left the party, armed themselves and drove around Santa Ana hunting for their rivals, prosecutors say.

At the wheel of a stolen car, Diaz and his friends fired at least 17 shots at the other gang members, striking and injuring six of them, according to prosecutors.

Five juvenile defendants, including Diaz and four other gang members who participated in the drive-by shooting, were arrested and prosecuted. Diaz was tried as an adult. He was convicted in August 1990 of six felony counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation.

A month later, Diaz escaped juvenile hall in Orange by crawling through a hole in a fence. A second juvenile -- in custody for unrelated crimes -- escaped with him but was captured. Diaz was sentenced in absentia to life in state prison, and a no-bail warrant was issued for his arrest.

Orange County prosecutors began investigating Diaz’s whereabouts last month and said they learned that Diaz had been using several false names, birth dates and Social Security numbers, and had obtained Department of Motor Vehicle IDs using the false information.

Authorities said Diaz was arrested in 2001 and prosecuted for prostitution in San Diego County under the name Jaime Gonzalez. In 2006, he was prosecuted for driving under the influence in San Diego County under the name Edgar Francisco Gonzalez.

-- Christine Hanley