Local News

Fayetteville Police ID Body as Attempted-Murder Suspect

Posted January 11, 2008 1:00 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2008 8:26 p.m. EST

— Fayetteville police believe that a man whose body was found in a house's back yard was a suspect in two attempted murders and a home break-in.

On Friday, police said the body found at 1959 Aspen Court on Dec. 13, 2007, was Juan Pablo Hernandez, 36, who lived with relatives in the nearby Oakdale Apartments.

A neighbor searching for pine cones found the badly decomposed body covered with leaves and lying in the fenced-in back yard of a home. Investigators said Hernandez had been dead for at least two weeks.

"He was right here with my swing," said homeowner Carl Johnson, who said he and neighbors were surprised at the gruesome find. "He was halfway covered in my lawn bag, like the bag you see right there, except it was a bigger one."

Hernandez had outstanding warrants for two counts of attempted murder and first-degree burglary.

Police believe he broke into a Strathmore Avenue home and attempted to stab a woman and assault her 12-year-old son on Nov. 15.

"But eventually, the mother and son were able to push Mr. Hernandez into some sort of a room, either a bedroom or a bathroom," Jamie Smith, a Fayetteville police spokeswoman, said. "They were able to escape the home and go to a neighbor's house and call for help."

Hernandez also managed to get out of the house and run away, Smith said.

The mother and son each received non-life-threatening injuries. Officers did not release their names and said the two are out of state and do not want to be identified.

Police said they did not know if the confrontation inside the home contributed to Hernandez's death. Investigators have not linked the break-in to the death.

Nor have detectives labeled Hernandez's death a homicide. Instead, police were conducting a death investigation and said it could be several weeks before the state Chief Medical Examiner's Office determines the cause of death.

Johnson said he did not notice the remains because he had not walked in his back yard in a while. He remembered smelling a strong odor for several days, but he and neighbors dismissed it as a dead animal.

However Hernandez's body came to be in his back yard, Johnson said he hopes he and the neighborhood can get past the shock of the discovery.

"Rest his soul, man," Johnson said. "He laid in my back yard. Guess he say, 'If you're gonna find me, you're gonna find me dead.' And that's basically what happened to him."