CHICAGO (CBS) — The suspect in the murder of a north suburban lawyer nearly a year ago is believed to have fled the country and might be hiding in the Philippines.

John G. Panaligan, 50, is wanted on a first-degree murder warrant for the killing of Jigar Patel in December 2016, according to Northbrook police.

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John G. Panaligan (Northbrook police)

Investigators said the 36-year-old Patel represented two of Panaligan’s former business partners at Naperville-based Vital Wellness Home Health.

They were embroiled in a years-long legal battle when Patel was found dead about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at his office in the 1300 block of Shermer Road, police said.

An autopsy found he was strangled and ruled his death a homicide, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He lived in Prospect Heights.

A month after the slaying, Northbrook police released surveillance images of a person in a trench coat walking with a cane out of the office. Police now say it was Panaligan wearing a disguise.

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He is believed to have left the United States by truck over the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas, in mid-January, police said. Evidence then surfaced of money transfers to Durango, Mexico, by Panaligan’s associates.

Though Panaligan’s last known address was in Aurora, he owns property in the Philippines and has extended family there, including his brother-in-law, Jose Jecerell C. Cerrado, who lives in Tuy, Batangas, police said.

Police said Panaligan has been making multiple money transfers to foreign bank accounts—some of which are in the Philippines—for years. He may have access to large amounts of money and assistance from his family.

He is described as a 5-foot-5, 140-pound Asian man with brown eyes and black hair. An international alert has been issued by the federal government for his arrest and extradition.

Northbrook police are working with the U.S. Marshals Service to locate Panaligan, and a reward is being offered. Anyone with information should call police at (847) 664-4464 or (847) 664-4457.

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 (Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)