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Federal authorities seek fugitive accused of death threats against Orange County judge

Authorities are looking for a Lake Forest man accused of making threats to murder an Orange County judge and to “indiscriminately assassinate” people at the courthouse.

Byrom Zuniga-Sanchez, 32, was enraged by his experience in family law court at the Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange from 2019 to 2021, according to an arrest warrant signed Thursday.

Court records show that Zuniga-Sanchez, who listed his occupation as a $12-an-hour lending officer for, has been involved in a child-support dispute with the mother of his 10-year-old son. They shared custody of the boy, and in 2019, she told the court, Zuniga-Sanchez made a $300 payment but refused to pay more.

In July, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit, Zuniga-Sanchez sent a threatening email intended for the family law judge — referred to as Victim Judge #1 — who had presided over the court hearings, blaming the judge for damaging his relationship with his son.

“It is time you die,” he wrote, according to the affidavit. “I am more committed to murdering you than I am to being present as a father. … Do you have any last words, apologies, or regrets you want to communicate before I lawfully kill you. … The remainder of my life will be dedicated to assassinating judges, attorneys, and a police station’s entire shift staff.”

Zuniga-Sanchez vowed to kill “every rotten heart hiding in that building” and added in an Instagram post that he had “absolutely nothing on my mind all day every day except the unbearable desire to murder people,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit said Zuniga-Sanchez was in Mexico when he sent the threats, putting him in violation of federal laws against threats made across international borders or state lines. Authorities said Zuniga, who does not have legal status in the United States, tried to enter the country in June at the San Ysidro crossing but lacked legal papers and was turned away.

The complaint said Zuniga has outstanding warrants for evading police, reckless driving, criminal threats, invasion of privacy and violation of a court order.

In May 2022, according to court records, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy found Zuniga-Sanchez in his car outside the Mission Viejo home occupied by the family of his child’s mother. At the time, he was under a protective order that he was to remain 100 yards away from the home, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing in the case.

Zuniga-Sanchez sped away as the deputy approached. The deputy caught up to him nearby, though Zuniga-Sanchez did not surrender for hours, the deputy testified.

Zuniga-Sanchez’s attorney called it an “isolated incident,” but Orange County Superior Court Judge John Adams decided there was enough evidence for prosecutors to take him to trial on a felony charge of evading while driving recklessly.

“The fact that nobody was killed or injured, this is [an] extraordinary dangerous situation under any circumstances,” the judge said of the chase.

The federal complaint filed this week said Zuniga-Sanchez went to the home of Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer one night in October 2021 and asked if he was home, then said “Tell him Byrom stopped by” and drove off.

In a statement Friday, Spitzer called it “another example of the need to protect elected officials from the ongoing, unique threats that come with holding elected office.” He called for legislation that bolstered security for candidates, officials and their families.

The FBI considers Zuniga-Sanchez a fugitive, and those with information about his whereabouts are asked to call the bureau at (310) 477-6565.

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