By Patrick Markey
Almost exactly two years after a Kilkenny immigrant was brutally gunned down inside a New York bar, NYPD detectives have tracked down and arrested his alleged killer in a suburban Maryland trailer park.
After 11 days of surveillance and following tips culled from local sources and the “America’s Most Wanted” TV program, Queens detectives on Monday nabbed Miguel Valerio, a Dominican immigrant, inside a small trailer park in Chester township.
On Tuesday, Valerio was awaiting extradition to New York, where he will face charges for allegedly shooting Francis O’Loughlin to death inside a Sunnyside bar on Sept. 5, 1998, said Det. Madelyne Galindo, a police department spokeswoman.
Charges were still pending against Valerio on Tuesday, but he will likely be hit with second-degree murder when he is arraigned in Queens District Attorney’s office.
Valerio has given detectives a statement implicating himself in the shooting, according to one police source familiar with the investigation.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
O’Loughlin, who was 32, died of the wounds he sustained after being shot once in the back of the head in the early-morning inside the Mad Ass Tavern, a busy Irish bar in the Sunnyside district.
Police believe the two men were involved in a dispute, possibly over O’Loughlin’s girlfriend, who worked at the bar with the Dominican man. O’Loughlin and Valerio had argued a week before the shooting and then exchanged words again the night O’Loughlin was killed.
O’Loughlin had been waiting for his girlfriend to finish work that night. At about 2:30 a.m. when he went into the bathroom, Valerio alleged followed him inside and shot him once in the head. O’Loughlin was taken in critical condition to Elmhurst Hospital, where he later died.
The arrest brought a measure of closure to O’Loughlin’s father, who waited for two frustrating years for word on his son’s killer.
“We wish we could go back two years and bring back Frankie,” Sean O’Loughlin told the Echo by telephone from his Kilkenny home. “It’s a sad thing for a lot of people, for our family and the other family. It would be great to turn back the clock, but we can’t.”
“This man is not entitled to be out on the street if he can put a gun to someone’s head like that. The police did great work to bring someone to justice. We can’t thank them enough.”
Friends said O’Loughlin had been living in the U.S. for several years, as had his brother. Both men worked together as subcontracting carpenters, but O’Loughlin had been talking to his mother about saving money to come home and start a business in Ireland. He spoke to her just days before he was killed.
The case attracted national attention once detectives turned to television crime programs for assistance. Investigators had believed Valerio may have initially fled to his native Dominican Republic only to return to the United States.
After broadcasting appeals on local English and Spanish language TV stations, Queens investigators appeared on the “America’s Most Wanted” fugitive capture section. It was that program and local tips that eventually led detectives to Chester township.
As local police with dogs and state troopers surrounded the trailer late Monday night, Queens detective Ron Terry moved in to make the arrest.
Stepping outside, Valerio recognized Terry from the “America’s Most Wanted” broadcasts and surrendered without resisting arrest.
“He came out and gave me a hug with tears in his eyes. He said to me, ‘Ron, no more running,’ ” the detective said. “He was kind of relieved.”