Local News

Missing Man Found Slain in Pender County

Posted February 18, 2008 4:14 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2008 9:25 p.m. EST

— A Wilmington man whose blood-stained truck was left at a Johnston County car dealership last month was found slain in Pender County over the weekend.

Martin Garza, 43, had been missing since Jan. 21, when he was seen at a Wal-Mart in the Wallace area. His black GMC Denali was found a day later at Ron's Custom Cars near Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 210 near Smithfield.

The truck had a window broken out, and its interior was covered with blood.

A passerby found Garza's body Saturday afternoon in tall grass off U.S. Highway 117 near Willard, said Capt. Jamie Ezzell, of the Pender County Sheriff's Office. Garza had been shot once in the head, Ezzell said.

Authorities identified two people of interest from surveillance video from the Smithfield car dealership. Socrates Taboada Gomez, 26, and Wilmer Alexis-Cruz Alvarado, 22, were with Garza before he disappeared, authorities said.

Pender County investigators are working with authorities from Johnston and Duplin counties on the case, Ezzell said.