On a cold November night in 1995, 13-year-old Anwar Lopez watched as his mother was shot and killed by a man with a short-barrel shotgun.

Ivette Guadulupe Bustamante Lopez, 35, died in her Murray apartment just before midnight from gunshot wounds to her chest and her face. Her blood seeped through the floor boards and dripped down the walls of the apartment downstairs.A screaming Anwar chased the alleged killer, his mother's estranged boyfriend Luis M. Sanchez, out of the apartment, hurling kitchen knives at him as he ran. Sanchez, then 22, who also used the name Luis Salazar, disappeared.

Anwar told Murray police detective Alex Huggard he didn't expect justice. It didn't matter that his mother died, Anwar said, because she and her two children were from Mexico. And because Sanchez, also a native of Mexico, was in the United States illegally.

"He really thought nobody cared, that nobody would do anything," Huggard said. "I wanted him to know that it did matter. That something would be done."

It took two years, but something did - sort of.

Under the conditions of a treaty between the United States and Mexico, Sanchez was arrested in Mexico City in November and was expected to be tried in his home country or extradited to the United States to face homicide charges.

But it all unraveled in March.

The paperwork from the Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry that would have guaranteed Sanchez's prosecution in Mexico failed to reach the Mexican Attorney General's Office in time.

It was a miss by a matter of hours, said John Russell, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sanchez was released from jail on the morning of March 19. The directive from the minister's office was delivered that afternoon.

Sanchez has now disappeared again. Mexican officials have issued a warrant for his arrest, so there is a slim possibility that he could still be tried.

For Huggard, the outcome is devastating.

He worked the case for two years, diligently tracking Sanchez, talking with anyone and everyone who might have known him. Following up on lead after lead after lead. And finally, spending more than a month preparing the documents - in both English and Spanish - to request that the Mexican government consider prosecuting Sanchez.

It was also Huggard who sat across the table from a 15-year-old Anwar Lopez in an immigration office in Nogales, Ariz., a year ago and listened to the young boy ask again if anything would happen in the case.

"I just wanna know if you guys are close to catching him, because, I mean I just want to be sure he is behind bars," Anwar said.

At the time, Huggard was certain that justice would be done. And had it worked, Murray would have been the first Utah law enforcement agency to use the Article IV condition of the U.S.-Mexico Extradition Treaty to prosecute a defendant.

"Here was a program that I was assured would work. But I would never do this again. It is a false-hope scenario, a lot of work for nothing," Huggard said, shaking his head.

What Huggard and others who worked on the case in Murray had hoped for was to send a message to Mexican nationals living in Utah that there was no escaping prosecution for crimes. Running back to Mexico would not be the equivalent of immunity.

"Now this guy is at large. He is a cold-blooded murderer. He's done it before and I'm sure he'll do it again," Huggard said. "What kind of message is that?"

And how do you explain it to a now 16-year-old boy?

Officials in California and Texas, however, say Huggard shouldn't be discouraged. They've seen Article IV work time and time again. So often, in fact, that California just had a statewide conference to instruct departments in how to prepare the documents requesting prosecution.

"We have had cases with similar results, but most of our cases are successful," said Juan Jose Briones, a former Mexico City attorney who now works in the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Over the past 10 years, San Diego has had as many as 20 of these cases in the works each year, Briones said. Only three or four might not make it to prosecution, he said, usually because a judge rules that the evidence submitted doesn't jive with Mexican law.

"There are huge differences between Mexican law and American law. Basically (Mexico) has tried to accommodate our documents to their system, which is difficult. It can be something as simple as an affidavit that isn't signed in the right way," Briones said. "In most cases, what we provide is sufficient to try and convict them, but in other cases, some defendants whom we consider dangerous are released."

Huggard suspects the problem lies in a Mexican legal system that is corrupt and inept and strongly nationalistic when it comes to punishing its own for deeds done in the United States.

"There is no justice in Mexico," he said.

Briones doesn't dismiss Huggard's contention, but said he doesn't believe that's been a factor in the cases he's seen.

"Maybe it's because of the types of cases - serious offenses like murder, kidnapping, rapes - but I think they take this agreement pretty seriously," Briones said.

And he adds, just because a case is dismissed by a judge doesn't mean it can't be refiled.

But it will be a long time before the Murray detective ever considers spearheading such an effort again.

"In 23 years in law enforcement, I thought, finally, one time, maybe you could make a difference," he said. "I feel badly for all the people who worked so hard on this, all the people who thought we were doing the right thing.

"I feel bad for her family."