Teen girl with special needs beheaded because she witnessed grandmother's murder

34-year-old Israel Palomino and 26-year-old Yoni Aguilar were charged with two counts each of capital murder for the women's deaths. Aguilar says he was forced to kill the teen.

                            Teen girl with special needs beheaded because she witnessed grandmother's murder
(Source:Getty Images)

A court testimony has revealed that a 13-year-old girl from Huntsville was decapitated after she saw her grandmother being assaulted with a knife and was left on cemetery grounds to die. The grandmother, it was revealed by an investigator from the Madison County Sheriff's Office, was linked to the Sinaloa cartel. Investigator Stacy Rutherford told the presiding judge that a few days prior to the death of the grandmother, Oralia Mendoza, and her granddaughter, Mariah Lopez, and three other people had gone to pick up a freshly made batch of methamphetamine. The situation went south very quickly after one of the people in Mendoza's group started getting suspicious of her. 34-year-old Israel Palomino and 26-year-old Yoni Aguilar were charged with two counts each of capital murder in connection with the deaths of Mendoza and Lopez. 

Aguilar had been in the Madison County District Court on July 12 for the preliminary hearing. Claude Hundley, the district judge, ruled that the prosecutors had enough evidence to move the case on to a grand jury. According to the sheriff's office, Aguilar said in a statement to the investigators that he was Mendoza's boyfriend. He also confessed to killing the two women and implicated Palomino in the crime as well, reported AL.com.

The date was June 2. The authorities said that Palomino, Aguilar, Mendoza, and another woman named Leticia Garcia had all gone to Norcross, Georgia, to pick up the product - a quarter kilo of methamphetamine. Rutherford told the court that during the trip to pick up the meth, something went horribly wrong. She testified that it was Mendoza and Garcia who were connected to the cartel and that Palomino thought there was a setup.

On June 4 early morning, Mendoza was told by a member of the cartel that she and her granddaughter would be taken somewhere safe. Rutherford testified that instead of this, Palomino and Aguilar drove the two women to the Moon Cemetery on Cave Springs Road.According to what Aguilar confessed, Mendoza and Palomino got out of the car and started arguing about the drug buy they had made a couple of days earlier. The argument allegedly got very heated and Aguilar told investigators that Palomino then killed Mendoza. The authorities have said that Mendoza's cause of death was sharp force trauma caused by a knife.

The two men then took Lopez to a secluded spot close to Lemley Drive because she had been a witness to the killing of her grandmother. Aguilar had said that Palomino forced him to kill the granddaughter. He told the investigators that he had been holding the knife in his hand when Palomino went up to him and moved his hand back and forth in a sawing motion. Rutherford testified that Lopez was then brutally decapitated soon after.

Aguilar had told investigators that Palomino had forced him to kill the girl, Rutherford said in court: "He said he was fearful of Israel." On June 7, three days after the murders, the local sheriff's office started their investigation. A farm boy was the one who had discovered Lopez's body on the property in Lemley Drive. The sheriff's office immediately put out a local press release of the description of the clothes that were found on the body and in less than 30 minutes, a woman showed up at the sheriff's office claiming she knew who the clothes belonged to.

The woman, as it turns out, was Lopez's mother and Mendoza's daughter. She told the investigators that the body that was discovered might be her daughter. The forensic scientists took one week to get back with the results that the body was positively that of Lopez. Aguilar and Palomino were already in police custody at this point. The authorities then found Mendoza's body in the cemetery on June 15 after Aguilar gave his confession.

Rutherford testified in court that Aguilar and Palomino's cellphones pinged in the same area of the killings during that time. Investigators were also able to recover two knives that are believed to be the murder weapons. The investigator told the judge that one of them was found under Aguilar's mattress and the other was discovered under Palomino's mattress. She also testified that blood had been found inside Palomino's car. Palomino's case had been set for a preliminary hearing on July 16 but the appearance in court has been continued. 

Lopez was a student at the Challenger Middle School. Rutherford told the jury in the court that the young girl had been a special needs child. The hearing on July 12 was an emotional one as Lopez's family had to hear all the gruesome details of how she was murdered.

The Sinaloa Cartel, for which Lopez's grandmother seemed to have worked, is often described as the largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Western hemisphere. It is an alliance of some of Mexico’s top capos. The members operate in a manner such that they protect themselves, depending on connections at the higher echelons of the federal police and military to maintain the upper hand against rivals.

The Sinaloa Cartel's reach is known to stretch from New York City to Buenos Aires and almost every major city in between. The cartel was founded in Mexico’s Sinaloa state and now operates in 17 Mexican states, and by some estimates, in as many as 50 countries.