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Local authorities nab cold case international murder suspect

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County authorities helped arrest a Sugar Hill man wanted in connection with the 2001 torture and murder of a Virgin Islands police officer.

An arrest warrant was executed Friday at the Sugar Hill home of 39-year-old Jose M. Rivera Jr. by members of the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department SWAT team, the GBI and FBI. Rivera was taken to the Gwinnett County Jail to await extradition, sheriff's department spokesman Lt. Sean Smith said.

According to information released by officials from the Virgin Islands Police Department, Rivera was one of five men arrested Friday -- the others on the island of St. Croix -- and charged with "the kidnapping, torture and murder" of Cpl. Wendell "Lazee" Williams.

St. Croix Police Chief Christopher Howell, Williams was 49 years old when he disappeared after leaving his police station on June 13, 2001. He called Williams' disappearance and the subsequent lengthy investigation "one of the darkest stages in his career."

"These arrests should stand as a reminder to the criminal element that there is no place on this planet you can hide, nor any limitation on the amount of time that passes, that will deter police from continuing any ongoing murder investigation," he said in a press release.

Information regarding how Rivera came to live in Sugar Hill was not immediately available Friday.