Nearly nine years after a street race along Bayfront Expressway led to a car crash that caused the death of 6-year-old Menlo Park resident Lisa Xavier, the man believed to be responsible for the crash has been returned to the U.S. after being extradited from Guatemala.
Shannon Steven Fox, 33 and formerly a resident of East Palo Alto, was booked into the San Mateo County jail the night of Aug. 28. His arraignment has been continued to Sept. 6, from Aug. 29, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Around 2 p.m. on the afternoon of Nov. 12, 2009, Charles Suresh and Shiji Varghese were traveling in a Toyota Camry on Willow Road, heading to the Sun Microsystems campus (now Facebook headquarters), with Lisa in the backseat.
Meanwhile, drivers of a Ford Mustang and a Honda Prelude were racing each other northbound on Bayfront Expressway at speeds approaching 80 miles per hour, according to police.
As the Camry Suresh was driving entered the intersection at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road at a green light, the Mustang crashed into the vehicle. They spun out of control and the Camry also collided with another vehicle in the intersection, according to police.
Immediately after the crash, while witnesses called 911 and emergency responders rushed to the scene, the Mustang driver, who police say was identified through physical evidence and witness statements as Shannon Steven Fox, then 24, jumped out of the Mustang and into the vehicle of his street-racing competitor, and fled the scene. He then traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border and crossed into Mexico, and eventually to Central America, police said.
The crash left Lisa critically injured and Varghese severely injured. Suresh escaped uninjured.
Lisa was taken to the Stanford Trauma Center and later pronounced dead. Varghese was treated at the hospital and eventually recovered from her injuries.
Since then, Menlo Park officers and detectives have continued to investigate the case.
In June 2010, the case was brought to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office for a criminal grand jury review. The grand jury returned an indictment against Fox, which led to an arrest warrant for $500,000.
The Menlo Park police department then requested help from the FBI, eventually getting a type of warrant for someone who has unlawfully fled an area to avoid being prosecuted (called a UFAP warrant). That warrant would allow him to be brought back to the U.S. if he were found.
Investigators continued to search for him through the FBI and its partnerships with law enforcement officers in Guatemala. They learned that he was living a normal life there, with a residence and job, Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini said; he may have been helped by relatives, according to a police statement. Over the years, the case changed hands from Sgt. Tim Brackett to Detective Jason Poirier.
In December 2016, Fox was found and, at the Menlo Park Police Department's request, arrested by Guatemalan authorities. Then followed almost two years during which Fox and his attorneys fought the legal request to be returned to the U.S. through the Guatemalan court system.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. State Department helped pursue the extradition request, police said. In April of this year, Fox lost his final appeal in the Guatemalan courts. Since then, efforts have been in the works to have him escorted back to the U.S. by the FBI.
Fox landed at the San Francisco Airport last night (Aug. 28) around 8:30 p.m. and was taken into custody by the Menlo Park Police Department.
"This is not a cold case," Bertini said at a press conference held this morning (Aug. 29). "This is an active case since the day it occurred."
FBI Deputy Special Agent Craig Fair said the arrest and extradition had involved the Menlo Park Police Department, San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California, the Transnational Anti-Gang Task Force, and the FBI legal attache in Guatemala.
"It is the product of tenacious work and dedication," he said. "Our message today is clear: Those who believe they are above the law and engage in behavior to endanger the safety of the people in our communities – they will be brought to justice."
Fox faces three felony charges, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe: gross vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run, and engaging in street racing that results in the death or injury of an individual. He faces up to 12 years in prison, he said.
Wagstaffe, who is also a Menlo Park resident, credited the hard work and collaborative efforts of the police department and the other involved agencies for the arrest. "This is justice done because law enforcement cares," he said.
"Rest assured, my office will take it across the finish line," he added.
Fox remains in county custody on $500,000 bail.