Authorities in western Iowa have released a man suspected of stabbing to death an Omaha meatpacking-plant worker in 2003, but they are continuing the case against another man charged in the slaying. The Omaha World-Herald reports 47-year old Thomas Sanchez, was released Thursday from the Pottawattamie County Jail on his own recognizance. Sanchez was arrested in January in connection to the cold case killing. He remains charged with first-degree murder in the death of 33-year old Nelson Alvarez-Hernandez, of Omaha.
The other identified suspect in the case, 36-year old James Cain Harris, of Council Bluffs, was also charged with first-degree murder. Harris was being held in the Pottawattamie County Jail on $1 million bail. Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber said Friday that the charges against Sanchez have not been dismissed. He said after Harris’ case is tried, a decision will be made on how to proceed with the case against Sanchez.
Alvarez-Hernandez, who worked at a South Omaha plant, dressed as a woman and went by the name Selena. He was stabbed in the early-morning hours of July 31st, 2003, outside a home near 13th Street and 16th Avenue in Council Bluffs. According to court documents, a sibling of Harris’ told Bluffs police that Harris stabbed Alvarez-Hernandez, saying Harris was angry because the victim had touched him. A $5 bill was found at the scene next to Alvarez-Hernandez’s body. A DNA profile developed from blood on the bill was tied to Sanchez several years later.
Sanchez told investigators that he did not know Alvarez-Hernandez and had never been to the scene of the crime. He said he had no idea why his DNA might have been there. Wilber said Sanchez agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial in return for being released. He said not having to try Sanchez right away will allow prosecutors to focus their efforts on Harris.
Harris is scheduled to go on trial May 28th.