Investigators: Guns, ammo found in Garner murder suspect's house
Posted August 20, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.