Burned-body suspects enter pleas

By JULIAN AGUILAR
LAREDO MORNING TIMES

Four men charged with the grisly murder of a Laredo man whose body was dumped into the trunk of a car and set on
fire pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial before a state district judge Tuesday.

Jesus Gonzalez-Martinez, 28, Jorge Rochel-Muniz, 27, Ruben Rochel-Arreola, 28, and Hector Eduardo DeLeon
Hernandez, 46, appeared briefly before Judge Joe Lopez in the 49th District Court to enter their pleas.

All four suspects are being held at the Webb County jail and also face charges of engaging in organized criminal
activity and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the March death of Victor Manuel Estrada Solis, 32.

Estrada Solis’ charred remains were found in the trunk of his burning Cadillac in the Green Ranch subdivision off
Mines Road. Police allege Estrada Solis was shot and killed at a business on San Bernardo Avenue and his killers then
transported his body and set it ablaze in an attempt to mask their crime.

Ricardo Gallardo-Solis, 28, and Fernando Gonzalez, 29, also face charges of tampering with evidence for their alleged
involvement in the case.

Attorney Eduardo Peña, who represents Gonzalez-Martinez, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The attorney claims his client had a right to release through a bail reduction or a personal recognizance bond because
the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure dictates the state must be ready to go to trial within 90 days of the defendant’s
detention.

The four defendants were originally charged with the murder and tampering charges, then subsequently indicted for
engaging in organized criminal activity.

Prosecutors also sought a separate charge of engaging in organized criminal activity where the underlying offense was
tampering with physical evidence. That charge was dropped, however, after tampering with evidence was determined
to not be included in the list of offenses associated with an engaging charge.

Peña argued the crimes should have been alleged at the same time and said the state could potentially be deemed as
prolonging his client’s detention.

“In this case, the judge ordered his release on a personal recognizance bond on the murder and tampering charges and
the state added the two (additional) charges,” he said. “They could have and should have been brought initially.”

Assistant District Attorney Uriel Druker said he understood the origin of Peña’s argument, but said the original
indictment was handed down before the writ was filed. The third charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, he
said, was a bona fide charge brought down by the grand jury.

Lopez eventually denied the petition and Gonzalez-Martinez was remanded back to the custody of the Webb County
jail, where he is being held on a $100,000 bond.

After the hearing, Peña said he intended to file an appeal on the ruling because although two Texas appellate courts,
the First and 14th Court of Appeals out of Houston, have ruled on the merits of the section of the code in question and
how it relates to a defendant’s detention, the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio has not.