06/13/2024

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Jesus Grijalva Jr., Monica Gomez, Samuel Uvalle Sr., and Roberto Salas (Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office)

Murder suspects filmed themselves using excavator to bury barrel containing the man they killed with a hammer: Cops

Left to right: Jesus Grijalva Jr., Monica Gomez, Samuel Uvalle Sr., and Roberto Salas (Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office)

Two men and a woman have all been arrested and accused of killing a man in Texas, allegedly beating him to death with a hammer before stuffing his body into a barrel and filming themselves while they used construction equipment to bury it.

Jesus Grijalva Jr., 43, Samuel Uvalle Sr., 47, and Monica Gomez, 41, had all been taken into custody last month and charged with murder in connection to the brutal slaying of Juan Carlos Hernandez De Leon, authorities announced. A fourth murder suspect, Roberto Salas, 35, has been on the run for weeks and remains at large.

According to a news release from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on May 13 were informed about a possible homicide that took place in San Juan, Texas. A witness told investigators that an adult male who had been reported missing earlier in the month — later identified as Hernandez De Leon — had been killed at a residence located in the 1900 block of Morningset Road. The residence is about 240 miles south of San Antonio.

Additionally, the witness told investigators that the victim’s body had been moved to another location in the area near the 4600 block of Wisconsin Road in Edinburg, Texas, a few miles northwest from the site of the alleged murder.

Initially, investigators said that they identified Grijalva Jr, Uvalle Sr., and Salas as being responsible for Hernandez De Leon’s murder. However, through witness testimony and cellphone video obtained from one of the suspects, authorities said they also confirmed that Gomez took part in the killing and burying of Hernandez De Leon.

Related Coverage:

    According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Brownsville NBC and CBS affiliate KVEO, witnesses told investigators that Uvalle Sr. at about 4 a.m. on May 7 went to Grijalva Jr.’s home on Morningset Road and argued with Hernendez De Leon. Authorities said that at some point, the argument escalated into a physical confrontation.

    “Samuel Uvalle (Sr.) started to assault Juan Carlos (Hernandez De Leon) with a hammer,” the affidavit states, according to a report from The Monitor newspaper. “Roberto Salas and Jesus Grijalva (Jr.) joined Samuel Uvalle (Sr.) on the assault. Jesus Grijalva Jr. utilized a hammer tool to assault Juan Carlos (Hernandez De Leon).”

    Gomez reportedly also had a hand in the fatal beating of the victim, per KVEO.

    The three male suspects then allegedly stuffed Hernandez De Leon’s body into a barrel, loaded it into a truck, and transported the barrel to the property in Edinburg. There, the suspects allegedly used an excavator to dig a hole and bury the barrel containing Hernandez De Leon’s remains.

    Investigators reportedly said that they searched Grijalva’s cellphone and obtained video footage showing Gomez helping him use the excavator to bury the barrel.

    A fifth suspect, Alejandro Cantu, 28, was also arrested in connection with the murder. Detectives say they learned that Cantu picked up the excavator used to bury Hernandez De Leon from the Edinburg property and that “Cantu knew the body was inside the barrel.” He is charged with one count of tampering with physical evidence with intent to impair a human corpse. He is currently being held on a cash surety bond of $1 million.

    Gomez is currently being held on bond of $4.3 million while Uvalle Sr. and Grijalva are both being held on bond of $5 million.

    Authorities emphasized that the investigation into Hernandez De Leon’s murder remains ongoing and are urging anyone with information relevant to the case to contact authorities at 956-383-8114.

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