Flight Attendant's Murderer Was 20-Year-Old Ex-Con: Police

Nicholas Aaronson was found strangled in his hotel room Saturday morning.

November 1, 2011, 3:14 PM

Nov. 1, 2011— -- A Mexican man arrested for the murder of a US Airways flight attendant told police and reporters he met Nicholas Aaronson at a bar and went back to his hotel room, but he didn't murder him.

"When I left the hotel he was still alive," said Jose Manuel Ramirez Perez, 20, of Mexico City, who was arrested for killing and robbing Aaronson Friday night. Aaronson, 33, was found naked and bound early Saturday morning. He appeared to have been strangled by a belt around his neck.

During a press conference Monday, Mexico City's attorney general Miguel Mancera said Ramirez Perez had arrived at the hotel with Aaronson and the two had gone upstairs to Aaronson's room together. Aaronson was staying at the hotel with his flight crew during a layover.

"Once inside the room, the suspect beat the American citizen to subdue him and tied him up with rope from the wrists, and then proceeded to strangle him with a belt," Mancera said.

Ramirez Perez appeared at the press conference and told reporters that he had turned himself in at the bar where authorities said he and Aaronson met. He said he had punched Aaronson twice, but not killed him. He insisted a 15-year-old from Phoenix, Ariz., was reponsible for Aaronson's murder.

Mancere, however, said that the suspect, who has a criminal record and was released from a Mexico City prison in June, strangled Aaronson and then stole the safe box as he left the room. He was identified by police through surveillance video, Mancera said.

Mancera said Ramirez will remain in the custody of prosecutors until he goes before a judge.

Aaronson's body is still being held in Mexico, according to his family. Aaronson's brother is in Mexico City to retrieve the body and return it to California, where his mother lvies, for funeral services. Aaronson was based in Phoenix.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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