Authorities disagree over suspected killer’s release; victim’s family responds

Raul Perez
Raul Perez' Oct. 26 mug shot from the Kent County Correctional Facility.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man in the United States illegally and now charged with murdering a woman in Wyoming has local police and feds pointing fingers at each other.

Raul Perez, 43, is charged with open murder and being a third-time habitual offender. He’s accused of killing 31-year-old Karla Guadalupe-Magana at Woodcreek Apartments on 44th Street east of Burlingame Avenue SW.

Perez had been deported twice to Mexico and was in the country illegally when Wyoming police arrested him for drunk driving on Oct. 21.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department told 24 Hour News 8 they released Perez from jail on a drunk driving charge, just days before the murder, because immigration officials didn’t order him detained.

Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young says the jail followed protocol. It fingerprinted Perez at noon the day after his arrest, then sent the prints electronically to the state which then sends them to the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The jail released Perez two hours later, not knowing he was here illegally. About an hour after his release, the prints came back with a hit from the state – revealing he had used a fake name but still nothing his immigration status and no outstanding warrants.

In an email Friday to 24 Hour News 8, an ICE spokesperson said “we disagree with the sheriff’s office characterization of the facts in this case.”

The spokesperson said the sheriff did not notify ICE of Perez’s arrest or his release.

“Ice was only made aware of Mr. Perez’s encounter with local authorities after 10 p.m. on Oct. 22, well after he had already been released from local custody,” the spokesperson wrote.

Four days later, Perez was arrested in the death of Guadalupe-Magana at Woodcreek Apartments.

Young says ICE didn’t notify local police that Perez was in the country illegally until after his arrest in the murder. ICE says it has now put an immigration hold on Perez and plans to take custody of him after the murder case is resolved and after he has served any possible prison term.

VICTIM’S FAMILY: “SHE WAS A STRONG WOMAN”

The family is adamant the two never dated, despite Perez wanting a relationship.

They told 24 Hour News 8 that last Saturday night, Perez came to Magana’s daughter’s quinceanera and got angry when Magana denied his advances. He stormed out that night but her family said never in their wildest dreams did they think Magana would end up dead just days later.

“He probably asked her to hang out or talk to her about something cause he used to be a nice friend, very friendly but he pretended to be a boyfriend,” her brother, Jose Magana, told 24 Hour News 8.

Court documents show Perez admitted to strangling her inside his apartment, then went to sleep.

Her family tells a history that includes Perez trying to pressure Magana into a relationship.

Magana moved to the U.S. less than two years ago from Mexico to make a better life for her five kids. They’re in the process of gaining citizenship.

Her brother can’t imagine the terror she faced in her last moments, adding that Perez’ skin was found under his sister’s nails.

“She was a strong woman. I think she fight till the last moment,” Magana added.