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Man Wanted For American University Professor’s 2010 Murder Captured In Mexico
Jorge Rueda Landeros was charged with the beating and strangulation death of professor Sue Marcum more than a decade ago, but has been working as a yoga instructor under a fake name for much of the time since then.
Students of a yoga instructor in Mexico went to report him missing last week, only to discover he had been arrested as the prime suspect in an American professor’s 2010 murder.
Jorge Rueda Landeros, 52, was arrested on Dec. 13 in Mexico after 12 years on the run, the Montgomery County, Maryland police announced on Friday. According to the FBI — which placed Landeros on their Most Wanted list — he is the sole suspect in the 2010 murder of American University accounting professor Sue Marcum, 52.
Federal authorities said Landeros, who was born in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, “allegedly had both a personal and financial relationship with the victim.”
“It was a heinous crime,” Montgomery Police Chief Marcus Jones recently told the Washington Post. “I thought it was just coldblooded to do what he did for money.”
News of his capture began when León Ferrara — the name under which Landeros is believed to have been living in Guadalajara — supposedly disappeared on Dec. 20.
According to Spanish newspaper El País, "Ferrara" spent more than a decade in Mexico as a yoga instructor and poet, frequenting local cafes and spiritual centers and forming close relationships with his pupils.
One of his students, “Maria”— speaking to the Spanish outlet on the condition of anonymity — was one of "Ferrara's" several friends who searched for him after he seemingly vanished while walking his dogs.
The missing man reportedly had no spouse, children or local relatives.
While with the Special Prosecutor for Missing Persons in Jalisco to report her teacher's disappearance, Maria was told that León Ferrara was actually Jorge Rueda Landeros, and that he had been arrested.
“I feel like I’m grieving,” she told El País. “I know León, but I don’t know who Jorge is.”
Landeros awaits extradition in Mexico City, but claims he had nothing to do with Marcum’s murder, he told the paper in a phone interview.
“I’m innocent,” Landeros told the newspaper from jail. “Not of everything, obviously. But of what I’m being accused of.”
He additionally claimed he wasn't in Bethesda at the time of the murder and hadn’t seen Marcum for weeks prior to her murder.
“There is a lot of abuse of authority, there is a lot of decadence,” Landeros told reporters from the holding facility. “Everything is very abandoned by the hand of God.”
Marcum, a beloved American University professor, was found dead in the basement of her Massachusetts Avenue residence — just north of the Maryland border with Washington D.C. — on Oct. 25, 2010. She had been both bludgeoned and asphyxiated, according to the Washington Post.
Officials said Marcum was beaten with a glass bottle, according to a 2017 article by CNN. Then-Montgomery County Police Sgt. Lawrence Haley told reporters they believed Marcum was strangled “just because of her [body's] general position."
Police also said that whomever killed Marcum staged the crime scene to look like a burglary, though nothing of value was taken from inside the home.
Marcum’s Jeep, however, had been stolen. Hours after the murder, 18-year-old Deandrew Hamlin led cops on a car chase in that vehicle, resulting in a crash. Ultimately, however, nothing tied Hamlin to the crime scene, and he was never charged in Marcum’s murder, though he plead guilty to unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to NBC D.C. affiliate WRC-TV.
Police now believe Hamlin stole the Jeep after it had been moved from Marcum’s residence, according to the Washington Post.
Investigators then turned their attention toward Mexico-born Landeros, who’d formed a friendship with Marcum six years earlier over their shared interest in yoga.
Friends said Marcum was “over the moon” in light of her blossoming relationship with Landeros, who spent dawns at Marcum’s home for meditation sessions. He wore expensive suits, presented himself as a day trader and accompanied Marcum to readings and concerts, according to a 2011 article by the Washington Post. He’d hopped around between financial jobs in the D.C. area for three years after arriving in the city around 2000, then begun day-trading, teaching Spanish — where he met Marcum — and working as a yoga instructor.
Marcum’s friends and colleagues, including Beverly Myers, eventually tried to warn her about Landeros, according to CNN.
“The stuff that she said to us [made us] kind of like, ‘Run, Sue, he sounds nutty,’” said Myers. "But the nuttier he was, the more appealing he was to her.”
“Sue talked about him like he was on a pedestal, he was like a god,” according to her friend, Larry March, who said he told Marcum, “‘I don’t like this guy. There’s something about him I just don’t like.’”
Marcum sought help from another accountant and friend, Don Williamson, for a $3.3 million tax lien Landeros faced for his failure to file tax returns pertaining to stock sales, according to the Post. Williamson said the matter was eventually settled with the IRS, but he also tried to warn Marcum off Landeros.
Landeros would later say in a 2011 interview with the Washington Post that he and Marcum had not maintained a romantic relationship.
"We climbed that wall of romantic love at some point, but there was nothing behind the wall,” Landeros said. “There was nothing that could progress in that direction.”
In his recent jailhouse interview with El País, he claimed, “it was more or less an intimate relationship.”
Landeros left D.C. in 2008, telling people he planned to return to Juarez to teach yoga. He admitted to the Post that he returned to the area in September 2010 to visit his mother in Northern Virginia and met up with Marcum, but claimed he was in Mexico when she was murdered in October.
Following Marcum’s murder, authorities found that Marcum had a $500,000 life insurance policy, and Landeros was the sole beneficiary.
“It doesn’t look good,” Landeros said in his 2011 interview with the Washington Post. “That’s why I’m here in Mexico.”
In 2011, DNA linked Landeros to the crime scene, and a local arrest warrant charging him with first-degree murder was issued in April, according to the FBI. Two months later, a federal warrant was issued charging Landeros with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, but Landeros was already in the wind, according to officials.
After the warrants were issued, Landeros began taunting investigators from his native country, according to Washington Post. He’d sent an El Paso detective an e-mail after police made several attempts to bring him back over the border.
“Of course, you are cordially invited to cross the same bridge, in the opposite direction, and meet me at Sanborn’s, a great cafe and restaurant here in Juarez, and we can talk shop all you want,” wrote Landeros. “It’s best if you come on a Sunday. We can have brunch. It will, of course, be my treat. Yours, Jorge.”
It was not immediately clear how Mexican officials narrowed in on "León Ferrara." However, sometime in December, the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office “received information” about Landeros’ whereabouts, according to Montgomery County officials.
“On Dec. 13, an operation was coordinated with the Legat, Mexico Task Force (Criminal Investigative Agency [AIC]) and Jalisco State Police to apprehend Rueda Landeros, where he was taken into custody without incident,” said stateside officials.
El País — citing Mexican records — reported he was booked on Dec. 14, where he awaits transfer back to Maryland.
Marcum’s brother, Alan Marcum, told the Washington Post he “was pleased” when Montgomery County officials called him with news of the arrest, explaining his and his sister’s parents died over the course of the investigation.
“Assuming he in fact did this, and that he is convicted and goes to prison, he will never be able to do this to anyone else,” said Marcum’s brother. “That’s what I’ve always wanted.”