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Archive for Saturday, July 22, 2000

Student flees country after rape reported

July 22, 2000

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— Police say a University of Missouri graduate student with Venezuelan citizenship has fled to that country after allegedly abducting and sexually assaulting a Columbia woman.

Even if he's found, officials say there's no guarantee he'll face charges in the United States.

Columbia police suspect Ronald Karjala, 40, a Spanish major, has been hiding in Vene-zuela since July 8 -- three days after he allegedly kidnapped his former 21-year-old girlfriend and threatened with a stun gun. She said Karjala drove her to an apartment and sexually assaulted her.

Karjala allegedly left his girlfriend bound to a specially designed chair inside a soundproofed room that was equipped with a video camera. The woman escaped after nearly five hours once Karjala left the apartment.

Police are unsure whether they can extradite Karjala to face charges. They believe he holds dual citizenship in both the United States and Venezuela, meaning Karjala could be protected under a revised provision of the Venezuelan constitution.

Columbia police say Karjala reached Mexico City on a commercial flight before flying to Venezuela.

Credit card records indicate Karjala spent money July 8 in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and since then at other Venezuelan spots, including a resort area.

Boone County prosecutor Kevin Crane declined early this week to discuss extradition efforts but said he had contacted federal authorities.

"It's not a walk-in-the-park type thing," Columbia police Sgt. Steve Monticelli said. "Once we get the federal (fugitive) warrants to D.C. and they sign off, the other country gets informed and they make an arrest and release him to the U.S. Embassy" where federal marshals can take custody.

"It's not clear" when Karjala could be returned, Monticelli said, or even whether Karjala can be extradited.

In December Venezuela adopted a new constitution that includes a prohibition against extradition of Venezuelan nationals, said Sherman Hinson, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department.

But the provision doesn't automatically preclude his return, Hinson said.

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