BLAINE - A man arrested in June 2011 at the Pacific Highway truck crossing when he was wanted in connection with an Oklahoma murder has been released.
Suhail Mohammad Shanti was arrested after Customs and Border Patrol agents found the warrant for him as they were processing his application for a NEXUS pass, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said. The NEXUS pass allows for quicker border trips for pre-approved, low-risk travelers who frequently travel between the U.S. and Canada.
Fingerprints from his NEXUS application matched those in a database of wanted men; officials said Shanti was a suspect in the 1983 death of Mohamed Ayman Al-Zein, a fellow international student at Carl Albert State College in Oklahoma. Shanti was held for more than a year, but prosecutors said they eventually determined they couldn't prove his guilt.
On Wednesday, Oct. 17, prosecutors dropped the charge because they no longer had sufficient evidence. Some witnesses had died, others had failing memories and blood evidence had degraded, Leflore County prosecutor Jeffrey C. Smith wrote in his request for the charge to be dismissed.
Shanti's lawyer had told the court during the summer that material evidence against Shanti was no longer valid. He did not immediately return a message left Wednesday seeking comment.
Shanti remained in the LeFlore County Jail. Administrator Claude Jones said federal officials requested that he be detained for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as he is not a U.S. citizen. Jones said Shanti could not take a telephone call at the jail.
Authorities were surprised last year when Shanti, then living at Burnaby, British Columbia, showed up at the Pacific Highway Port of Entry in Blaine and submitted his fingerprints as part of the interview process for the border crossing program. After checking the prints against a nationwide database, agents confirmed the charges against Shanti and arrested him.
In an interview, Smith said that while the case collapsed, it was a consolation that Shanti was subject to deportation. Last year, prosecutors said they believed Shanti was originally from Morocco.
"I don't know where he'll end up, but I'm pretty sure it won't be in the United States," Smith said. "We're pleased that he's not just being released out into the community."