LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - A wanted fugitive who allegedly committed child sex crimes in Lawton in 1987, and became one of the U.S. Army’s Top 10 Most Wanted, has reportedly been found dead in a Maltese jail cell on the eve of his extradition to the United States.
Nazzareno “Reno” Mifsud was arrested in January of 1987 in Lawton after being charged with one count of lewd molestation. His 15-year-old victim told police Mifsud had committed the act as the victim pretended to be asleep at a home in the 2300 block of NW Lincoln Avenue.
A second charge of lewd molestation was later filed against Mifsud for alleged acts committed against his 12-year-old neighbor in December of 1986.
Mifsud was taken into custody on those charges by Lawton police and released on bond awaiting his trial which was scheduled for June of 1987. He fled the United States shortly before the trial and has been a fugitive ever since.
Officials say Mifsud was an American citizen, but believed he had fled to his birth country of Malta due to the lack of an extradition treaty with the United States.
At the time the crimes were committed, Mifsud was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Sill. For that reason, the Army placed him on their “10 Most Wanted” list and categorized him as Absent Without Leave (AWOL).
In 2006, the U.S. and Malta governments signed a new extradition treaty which went into full effect in 2009. The treaty provides that “extradition shall not be refused based solely on the nationality of the person sought” for certain crimes including “sexual exploitation of children and child pornography,” according to federal documents.
In 2015, U.S. Marshals received reliable information that Mifsud was living in Malta and efforts began to locate and arrest him. That information reportedly came to light after Mifsud posted a picture of himself and other information on Facebook.
Multiple agencies, including the U.S. Embassy in Malta, the Pentagon, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command and the U.S. Marshals began working to locate and apprehend Mifsud.
Meanwhile, the Lawton Police Department, Comanche County District Attorney, U.S. Criminal Investigation Command and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Oklahoma worked to prepare the necessary documents to request extradition of Mifsud.
In 2017, an extradition request was filed in federal court and sent to officials in Malta. It would be three-and-a-half years before Mifsud would be arrested in Malta in August of 2020.
Mifsud was set to be extradited back to Oklahoma to face justice, but on Monday, Maltese media reports say Mifsud was found hanging in his jail cell by a necktie. He was taken to the hospital where he died.
The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on this story.
Fort Sill officials released this statement about the situation:
Despite the fact that more than three decades have passed, we remain committed to working along our great teammates in the local law enforcement community. We can confirm that Nazzareno Mifsud was assigned to Fort Sill at the time of arraignment and his bonding under civilian criminal court for misconduct occurring off of the installation. Mifsud went AWOL on May 11, 1987 and was dropped from rolls on June 10, 1987. Mifsud was a Sergeant (E-5) at the time of his AWOL (Absent without official leave) and he had an active desertion warrant. We are satisfied that our local law enforcement, the US Army Criminal Investigation Command, U.S. federal agencies and Maltese authorities worked collaboratively and so diligently to locate and request extradition of Mifsud. The allegations against him were upsetting and in no way represent the culture of values we imbue on our Soldiers here at Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence.