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Investigators: Guns, ammo found in Garner murder suspect's house

Posted August 20, 2015

— In the second day of testimony in the trial of a man charged with the mistaken-identity murder of a Garner couple, investigators said they found guns and ammunition in the home of the suspect and the home of his alleged gang associates that matched ballistics from the murder scene.

Jonathan Santillan is one of two men charged with first-degree murder and first-degree burglary in the Jan. 5, 2013, attack that killed Samuel and Maria Mendoza.

According to court documents, the Mendozas were at home with their 3-year-old son, at 708 Colonial Drive, when the 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 boy was not injured in the attack.

Investigators told the court Thursday that they first searched the home of alleged gang members associated with Santillan. They then searched his home and the home of Isrrael Vasquez, his uncle, the other person charged in the case.

They testified that they found weapons, including handguns and assault rifles and magazines with dozens of rounds of live ammunition.

On two separate searches, they ripped out the insulation in the attic and found weapons and ammunition they say matched the ballistics from the Mendoza murder scene.

Investigators said they found people hiding in the attic at Santillan's house on Jan. 15, 2013.

Moises Reyes, a man charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder for allegedly driving Vasquez and Santillan from the scene of the crime took the stand Thursday afternoon.

Reyes testified that he went to Colonial Drive on the day the Mendozas died to intimidate witnesses involved in a December fight between rival gang members. One man was shot in that incident.

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

"I wanted to just scare them so they would not testify against my brother," Reyes said.

But he said he knew something was wrong when he heard a child crying in the home. When Santillan returned to the car, he had no reaction to the shooting, Reyes said.

"They were just normal. They were smiling," he said.

Cross examination by the defense attorney called Reyes' credibility into question, pointing out that he had lied to police before finally telling the truth. The defense said Reyes was trying to minimize his punishment as he also faces serious charges in the case.

A woman who also witnessed the December fight took the stand Thursday morning.

“I didn’t know what to do. Somebody was already hurt,” said witness Celia Gonzalez. “We didn’t need to stay and get hurt, too.”

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.

Testimony is scheduled ton continue Friday at 9:30 a.m.


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  • Chris Hall Aug 21, 2015
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    I can see myself in my mirror but you see what you want to in yours. Yes there are lots of people in the US here illegally….there are many MORE here legally with Hispanic names. Just because someone’s name ends in a vowel does not mean they “raise kids with attitudes we threw out in the 70's.” What does that even mean??? You act as if “illegals” (that is your racist slang for anyone who happens to speak Spanish or look like they speak Spanish) are the only criminals we have inside our borders. Before this “invasion” we had lower crime rates right???? Well, crime is at a 30 year LOW even with this influx in the early 2000’s.

    You are the one calling people a “spade” and then crying when you get called out for it. Notice the people always yelling “racebaiter” are the ones who brought up the subject of race in the first place. Don, might want to check your mirror.

  • Don Dickerson Aug 20, 2015
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    Hey Chris; I don't know your stake in unregulated, undocumented and uncontrolled immigration (otherwise called an invasion) is, but your self-appointed role as inquisitor of anyone who calls a spade a spade on this site wearing thin. What are you personally afraid of, Chris? That some embarrassing truths about our new "neighbors" might finally get the wide-open spotlight it deserves? Thousands of people are in this county illegally, are driving illegally in any number of ways, raise kids with attitudes we threw out in the 70's, and have completely blocked the low-wage job spectrum from thousands more native North Carolinians along with the low-cost housing communities that generally give the young and old alike a needed break at vulnerable points in their lives. And being generally unknown to law enforcement, that makes them especially susceptible to being the victims of and the perpetrators of crimes you can't even imagine. Check your mirror!

  • Craig Elliott Aug 20, 2015
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    "Are the suspects in this country illegally?"

    Does asking that question make one a racist*? I had the same (unanswered) question. I think it's a relevant question given our current state of affairs.

    *Country of origin is not the same as race.

  • Ray Lee Smythe Aug 20, 2015
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    That's a shame. A hardworking couple gunned down by wannabe gangbangers. I would say throw the book at them, but NC is light on criminals. Pitiful.

  • Chris Hall Aug 20, 2015
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    Are you?

  • Richard Mackey Aug 20, 2015
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    need to get those snide looks off their faces....admitted gang members and killing that family by mistake makes no difference. and throw away all the keys

  • Bonnie Craig Aug 20, 2015
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    Are the suspects in this country illegally?

  • Don Dickerson Aug 20, 2015
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    Hey County Commissioners....thanks for deciding we could live with this.