Murder suspect and ex-MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla is living in ‘diplomatic limbo’ in Canada

Ariel Gandulla has been accused of participating in a 2011 murder-for-hire.

By: Tim Bissell | 5 years ago
Murder suspect and ex-MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla is living in ‘diplomatic limbo’ in Canada
Video Thumbnail: Ex-MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla pleads guilty in murder case (YouTube/Miami Herald)

In late April former Bellator title challenger (and Olympic medalist) Alexis Vila Perdomo, 47, was arrested in Miami, FL and charged with Second Degree Murder. Charged alongside Vila Perdomo was his former training partner Ariel Gandulla, 41. However, whereas Vila-Perdomo is in jail awaiting trial, Gandulla is free – for the moment.

Police in Miami-Dade County say that Vila Perdomo and Gandulla are involved in the 2011 murder of Camilo Salazar. Salazar’s body was found on a dirt road in South Florida. Salazar’s hands had been bound behind his back, his throat slit, and his genitals burned.

David Ovalle of the Miami Herald reported that investigators believe Gandulla participated in the murder of Salazar on orders from Miami supermarket mogul Manuel Marin, who relocated, possibly to Spain or Cuba, soon after the murder.

It is believed that Salazar was having an affair with Marin’s wife and that this provided a motive for the murder (per Local10 ABC News). Along with Gandulla, Vila Perdomo, and Marin, Roberto Isaac, 54, has also been charged in connection with the crime. Like Vila Perdomo, Isaac – a trainer, promoter, and former boxer – was apprehended and is currently in custody.

According to investigators, via the Miami Herald, phone records show that Isaac, Vila-Perdomo, and Gandulla were all in contact with Marin the day Salazar went missing. Investigators also state that phone records reveal Gandulla and Isaac made calls close to Salazar’s home and that Isaac and Marin used their cellphones close to where Salazar’s mutilated body was found.

At a detention hearing for Vila Perdomo it was revealed that Gandulla is currently residing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Vancouver Sun claims that Gandulla moved to Canada in 2002 as a Cuban national with permanent residency in the US. His immigration status in Canada is reportedly under-review.

Like Vila Perdomo, Gandulla is a Cuban defector to the United States. Because of this, according to the Miami Herald, attempts to charge or extradite Gandulla from Canada are extremely complicated. The Herald adds that Gandulla has been working as a welder in Canada, where he is married with three children.

Ariel Gandulla’s citizenship status is causing problems for prosecutors

Reports go on to state that seemingly neither Canada nor the US “want a Cuban national with a felony record who faces criminal trials in two Florida counties.”

Ariel Gandulla is currently in a court battle with Canada to allow him to stay in Vancouver. This legal case began long before he was charged with murder. Prosecutors in Miami-Dade want to extradite Gandulla to make him stand trial. However, Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Gail Levine said in court that, “The federal government is not willing to let us bring him here because he’s a Cuban national.”

The Herald called that situation ‘diplomatic limbo’ and stated that, “the U.S. government may not want him back in the country for fear he may get acquitted and settle stateside again.” The fact Gandulla does not have American Citizenship also means that U.S. Homeland Security are unwilling to file an extradition order.

The Vancouver Sun reports that court documents pertaining to Gandulla’s attempts to secure permanent-residence status in Canada claim Gandulla was once involved with the Latin Kings street gang. Those documents also show Gandulla has previous charges for battery on law enforcement and cocaine possession. Gandulla fled to Canada before he could be tried on those charges.

Ariel Gandulla had a controversial MMA career

As an MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla, who was nicknamed ‘Panther’, held a professional record of 8-9. In 2007 he twice competed in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). After moving to Canada Gandulla fought three more times before retiring from competition.

In 2010 Gandulla was involved in a bizarre fight with Mike Bernhard on the Florida regional circuit. Reportedly there was bad blood between the fighters due to an alleged unpaid debt of $1,500 between Gandulla and Bernhard’s trainer Marcos Avellan. It is claimed that Avellan loaned Gandulla the money so he could get a CAT scan to pass his WEC medicals.

In the fight Gandulla received a warning from the referee for eye-gouging and a low blow. Moments after the low-blow Gandulla was disqualified for another eye-gouge. Gandulla then tried to climb out of the cage, but was forced back in by officials. In the confusion Bernhard struck out at Gandulla and the pair had to be separated. Gandulla was eventually lead away from the cage by officials and police officers.

This incident is presented below via AMP Film Studios / Active Media Partners on YouTube.

While Gandulla lives openly in Vancouver, Vila Perdomo – whose pro fighting career stretched from 2007 to 2016 and was interrupted by a prison sentence for driving his car into a Fort Lauderdale airport – remains in jail. He was denied on April 30th.

Ariel Gandulla, Alexis Vila Perdomo, Roberto Isaac, and Manuel Marin are all considered innocent until proven guilty.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

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