The Buffalo Soldier Gate at Fort Bliss, Texas, in March 2021.

The Buffalo Soldier Gate at Fort Bliss, Texas, in March 2021. (Rose L. Thayer/Stars and Stripes )

AUSTIN, Texas — A Fort Bliss soldier accused by Mexican authorities of shooting and killing his girlfriend in the border town of Juarez is expected not to challenge extradition during a federal hearing Thursday, according to court records.

Spc. Saul Luna Villa, 23-year-old mortarman with the 1st Armored Division, is charged in Ciudad Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua with aggravated femicide in the April 7, 2023, death of a woman who he had been dating for four years.

Court documents do not name the woman, but her mother identified her in local news reports as Aylin Valenzuela, a 19-year-old mother.

The mother described the couple’s relationship as one filled with arguments often sparked by Luna Villa’s possessiveness and jealousy. During fights, Luna Villa would push her around and insult her.

Luna Villa is from Burlington, Wis., and has been stationed at Fort Bliss for more than two years, according to his official service record. In addition to a murder charge in Mexico, Luna Villa also has military charges pending against him that are related to this case but not fully described in the court documents. Details on those charges are not yet publicly available, according to base officials.

“Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division are aware of the notification of provisional extradition of Spc. Saul Luna received from Mexico to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Army does not comment on ongoing litigation,” said Lt. Col. Kimbia Rey, a division spokeswoman.

An attorney listed online for Luna Villa did not respond to calls for comment.

Spc. Saul Luna Villa, a 23-year-old Fort Bliss soldier, is charged with murder in Mexico for the April 7, 2023, death of his girlfriend, according to online federal court records.

Spc. Saul Luna Villa, a 23-year-old Fort Bliss soldier, is charged with murder in Mexico for the April 7, 2023, death of his girlfriend, according to online federal court records. (U.S. Army)

Fort Bliss and El Paso border Mexico in far west Texas, and Luna Villa traveled across the border on April 7 to meet with Valenzuela despite a base policy that prohibits soldiers from traveling into Juarez and other parts of Mexico. The woman’s mother told Mexican police that her daughter rode in an Uber from her home to meet Luna Villa.

The Uber driver later told police that he dropped off Valenzuela and saw her get directly into a black GMC truck with a man wearing a white shirt.

Valenzuela sent a photo of herself to her mother’s cellphone at about 7:20 p.m. that showed Luna Villa’s arm in the photo, which she said was distinguishable because of his tattoos, according to court documents.

About five minutes later, Luna Villa called the woman’s mother to ask if she was home. The mother replied with surprise and said she had just received the photo of her daughter with him. She then hung up and tried unsuccessfully to call her daughter.

Luna Villa called the mother again about 10 minutes later asking if she knew Valenzuela’s location, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, at about 7:24 p.m., a call was made to police about the discovery of a dead body at an intersection in the Anahuac neighborhood of Juarez.

The mother confirmed the body was her daughter the following day. An autopsy showed she’d been shot in the head and chest.

Police used security camera footage from the neighborhood to identify a man wearing a white shirt and driving a black truck stop and lower a “bundle” from his passenger seat, leaving it on the ground at 7:21 p.m.

By 8:32 p.m., Department of Homeland Security records show Luna Villa crossing back into the U.S. at the Cordova Bridge in a black GMC truck — a truck that he frequently used to cross the border, according to court documents.

Mexican authorities issued the arrest warrant on April 14, 2023, and Luna Villa was taken into U.S. Marshal Service custody in September. He was confirmed Tuesday as an inmate at the West Texas Detention Center, a private prison in Sierra Blanca.

author picture
Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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