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Investigator: Santillan originally lied during taped interview

Posted August 25, 2015

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— Investigators testified Tuesday that suspect Jonathan Santillan lied to them during a taped interview about his involvement in the mistaken-identity murder of a Garner couple more than two years ago.

Scott Barefoot, an investigator with the Wake County Sheriff's Office, said Santillan spent about eight hours at the sheriff's office not long after the shootings of Jose and Maria Mendoza on Jan. 5, 2013.

According to court documents, the Mendozas were at home with their 3-year-old son, at 708 Colonial Drive, when two teens – wearing hair nets, masks and gloves – kicked in their door and shot them.

Jose Mendoza, 34, was shot 16 times in the head, chest and torso, and Maria Mendoza, 34, was shot seven times in the back, lower abdomen and legs. The child was not injured in the attack.

Santillan and his uncle, Isrrael Vasquez, are both charged with murder in the case. They are being tried separately.

Barefoot told the jury that Santillan agreed to speak to him without an attorney present, and he originally denied knowing anything about the crime or anyone involved. He went on to testify that Santillan pointed the finger at Moises Reyes, and said while he was involved in a gang fight in December 2012, he did not hurt anyone in either case.

"He admitted to being at Woodcrest (site of the fight) but denied shooting anyone," Barefoot said. "He denied being at Colonial Drive. He wanted a deal with the district attorney's office before he spoke."

Reyes, who testified for the state Thursday, told the jury he drove Santillan to and from the Mendozas’ home the night they were killed, but he did not go inside and did not participate in the shootings.

The jury spent Tuesday afternoon reviewing the full taped interview conducted by Barefoot and Wake County Sheriff's Detective Mariah Jarema.

In the video, the jury heard Santillan rambling to investigators, sometimes talking in circles and first saying he did not know anything about the murders.

"Look, I already told you, I was not there," Santillan said in the taped interview. "I already told you I have nothing to do with it. You ask me the questions, I answer. You cannot say I didn't coorperate."

Santillan stopped the interview several times after getting upset with investigators. The investigators would leave the room, and he would bang on the door and ask them to come back.

At one point, he even asked for protection for himself and his family.

"I did not shoot them, but I know who did," Santillan said in the taped interview. "But I just need to know my family will be safe."

Hours into the interview, as Barefoot testified, Santillan told investigators Reyes was the one who committed the murders.

Investigators believe the shooting at the Mendoza home was a continuation of the December 2012 gang fight but that the suspects had the wrong address for the man they were looking for and mistakenly killed the Mendozas.

The intended target of the gang had once lived in the home on Colonial Drive but had moved out and the Mendozas moved in, which led to the tragedy, according to investigators.

Santillan, who was 15 when the crime was committed, cannot face the death penalty because of his age.

Testimony will continue at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday when the jury will watch the remainder of the taped interview.

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