By Mike Sakal, Tribune
Chandler, Arizona police believe the beheading of a 38-year-old man in October is tied to Mexican drug cartel violence for one reason:
Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy stole 400 pounds of marijuana from the cartel PEI Estatales/El Chapo and he lied about it in an attempt to save his life.
The beheading of Cota-Monroy and the events leading up to his death were chronicled in a grisly, detailed report released by Chandler police on Wednesday.
The body of Cota-Monroy, a Mexican national, was discovered stabbed multiple times in his apartment in the 300 block of West Fairview Street during the early morning of Oct. 10, according to police. His head was found several feet away in what police believe is the first such decapitation in the United States.
“The cartel hired hit men specifically to kill him,” said Detective Dave Ramer, a Chandler police spokesman. “He lied his way out of being killed the first time. He said he was going to put up his house for collateral to pay for the drugs, but he didn’t own a house. You’re going to say whatever you can to save your life.”
Of the four men who police believe were inside the apartment that evening and early morning, one was arrested – Crisantos Moroyoqui, 36 – on suspicion of second-degree murder and hindering prosecution. Moroyoqui, who was discovered by police with blood on his hands and clothing, had not been cooperating with investigators. According to the report, he told police he was too drunk to remember what had happened and that he didn’t know the other suspects. He told police he had been living in the apartment building for three to four months.
Authorities are still searching for Juan Jose Campos Aguilar, Jose David Castro Reyes and a man only known to them as “El Joto,” a derogatory term for a gay man, in connection with the beheading. Police believe the suspected hit men fled the scene in a 2003 Red Ford Expedition with California license plate No. 6FWR784, and have returned to Mexico.
The report states an enforcement/kidnapping group called “Los Relampagos” was initially sent to kidnap Cota-Monroy and return him to the cartel to face punishment for stealing the drugs. Cota-Monroy talked his way out of it by telling them that the marijuana was confiscated by the U.S. Border Patrol and that he would put up his house as collateral to pay for the pot, according to the report.
Instead, Cota-Monroy fled to a safe house in Phoenix in an attempt to avoid being killed.
The PEI Estatales/El Chapo cartel then hired three men from the group “El Gio” to kill Cota-Monroy, according to the report. Police believe the three suspected assassins befriended Cota-Monroy and were drinking with him in the apartment before he was killed.
Chandler police said they acquired intelligence from Border Patrol agents about the circumstances leading to Cota-Monroy’s death.
Despite initial media reports of the crime being connected to a Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) ritual, authorities don’t believe this was part of the religion based in Mexico City.
Candles and a Ouija board, which are used in Saint of Death rituals, were found in the apartment, but police said there’s a possibility the men became intoxicated before discussing the religion, according to a neighbor who overheard the men talking in the apartment that evening.
“There’s nothing ritualistic about this death,” Ramer had said. “He was outright killed.”
Cota-Monroy’s body was found Oct. 10 in this Chandler apartment, his severed head was found a couple feet away. Only one of four men suspected in his killing and decapitation has been arrested; the manhunt continues for the other three, who police believe fled to Mexico. Cota-Monroy and the four suspects all are from Mexico and were in the U.S. illegally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Jose David Castro-Reyes
Juan Jose Aguilar-Campos