HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) – A preliminary hearing Thursday gave more information into a grisly double homicide in Madison County.
Mariah Lopez, a 13-year-old, was decapitated and her grandmother, Oralia Mendoza, was also killed. Investigators now believe the case has connections to a drug cartel.
26 year-old Yoni Martinez Aguilar, one of the capital murder suspects, appeared before a judge on Thursday.
Aguilar kept tight-lipped as he entered the courtroom. Madison County investigator Stacey Rutherford took the stand for nearly an hour talking about what led up to this this double homicide and how they narrowed in on their two suspects, Aguilar and 34-year-old Israel Gonzalez Palomino.
In court, investigators found out that days before the murder, Aguilar, Palomino, Mendoza and her friend Laticia went to Norcross, Georgia to pick up a large amount of drugs. Something on that trip made Palomino and Mendoza get into a deadly argument.
Investigators said Palomino was once romantically involved with Mendoza, but it was Aguilar who was currently dating Mendoza at the time of the murder.
On June 7, deputies were called to a wooded area on Lemley Drive where Mariah’s body was found. From there authorities learned the 13-year-old’s grandmother was her primary guardian and was also missing. Family members told investigators about the grandmother’s friends and who may have seen her last.
Palomino and Aguilar both went willingly to be interviewed by investigators.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office interviewed both Aguilar and Palomino, but the investigator said it wasn’t until the second interview that Aguilar spilled more information and demonstrated how the murders happened. He told investigators where Mariah’s body could be found once authorities told him that their cellphone pings put them at the location.
According to Rutherford, Aguilar helped authorities locate Mendoza’s body near Moon Cemetery on Cave Springs Road more than a week after Mariah’s body was found.
Aguilar told investigators that Palomino held his hand with the knife and moved it back and forth to behead the 13-year old.
Authorities believe the murders happened on June 4.
*This story has received only local coverage, while ignored by the national press. And, all but one of the the local sources (WAFF) reporting on the grisly murder have omitted the fact that both of the suspects are in the country illegally.
Also conspicuously absent from all coverage, is the fact that Aguilar was arrested in Madison County on disorderly conduct and a DUI charge, and despite his illegal status, was released back into the community in December 2015.
In addition to several other charges, both have also been charged with capital murder of a person under the age of 14.