Teens charged with murdering couple at home outside Garner

‘It’s a sad state that we’re in right now,’ sheriff says of the fourth such case in six months

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJanuary 23, 2013 

  • Other Triangle teens charged with murder • In August, two brothers, ages 13 and 15, were arrested and accused of shooting a 16-year-old in North Raleigh. In December, a grand jury indicted Brayan Hernandez-Sierra, 13, and his brother, Ceferino Hernandez-Sierra, 15, with murder. • In mid-December, four teens – a 13-year-old and three 15-year-olds – were charged with beating a 37-year-old homeless man to death and stuffing his body into a trash receptacle off a greenway trail in South Raleigh. The teens are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 28. They could be charged as adults if a judge finds there is enough evidence to warrant a charge of first-degree murder. • In late December, police detained two girls from Raleigh, ages 12 and 14, and a 16-year-old boy from Durham after a carjacking and shooting in Durham that left a 35-year-old man dead and sent the 12-year-old to the hospital with self-inflicted gunshot wounds to her abdomen and leg.

— Wake County sheriff’s deputies charged two teens with shooting a couple to death in their home outside Garner earlier this month, marking the fourth time in less than six months that teens, some not old enough to drive, have been charged with murder in the Triangle.

“It’s a sad state that we’re in right now,” Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Wednesday as he announced the arrests. “It’s hard to even understand why someone would do this.”

Harrison said one of the teens, Isrrael Vasquez, 16, was charged as an adult, while the other – Vasquez’s 15-year-old nephew – is being handled as a juvenile. His name was not released.

They have been charged with murder, felony conspiracy, first-degree burglary and possession of stolen property. Vasquez, who lived at 165 Montiseno Drive south of Garner, also was charged with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number.

Harrison said there was no indication that the teens knew Jose Samuel Flores Mendoza and his wife, Maria Savaria Mendoza, before breaking into their townhome at 708 Colonial Drive around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 5. The couple is survived by two children, ages 3 and 12.

The 3-year-old was in the townhouse at the time of the shooting, but was unharmed.

The Mendozas were both 34 and worked at the Golden Corral at 3555 Grenelle St., just off Tryon Road in South Raleigh. Store spokesman Scott Schaberg described the couple as “two great, longtime employees who were part of the Golden Corral family.” The restaurant held a fundraiser to help cover their final expenses.

“They were a Christian, hard-working couple who kept to themselves,” Harrison said Wednesday.

The motive for the shootings is not clear, Harrison said, but investigators think the double-homicide may be related to a shooting at 5500 Meadowbrook Road, off Fayetteville Road near Garner, on Dec. 4. Two adults and two juveniles were charged with assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and felony conspiracy in connection with the shooting of a man there, but Harrison stopped short of saying whether the teens in the Mendoza case were involved.

Asked whether the shooting deaths of the Mendozas could be gang-related, Harrison replied: “There are some indications that it may be, but it’s too early for me to stand here and say yes at this time.”

Abeni El Amin said she is not surprised by the deadly violence being perpetuated by children as young as 12. Amin, former chairwoman of the Raleigh Human Relations Commission, is director of Project Ricochet North Carolina, a nonprofit that works to provide at-risk with constructive alternatives to negative behavior.

“It’s all because of the breakdown of the moral fiber in this country,” she said. “I should add that with the economic downturn, many jobs that young people were able to get at 14, they are now not able to get because their parents are working those jobs.”

El Amin added that while the city and county officials are both doing a good job of providing young people with constructive outlets, it’s still not enough.

“They’re doing a very good job, but maybe not the best job of providing for and retaining young people in their programs,” she said.

The assault rifle

Harrison did not identify the weapon used to kill the Mendozas. The arrest warrant for Vasquez indicated that a WASR-10 semi-automatic rifle had been taken from the Mendoza home.

Last week, deputies charged an 18-year-old woman with possession of an assault rifle that her arrest warrant indicated may have been used in “a double homicide and shooting.” Gemby Itzamar Estrada of 4000-C Water Oak Drive was charged with one felony count of possession of a weapon of mass destruction and one misdemeanor count of resisting a public officer.

The weapon, like the gun taken from the Mendoza home, was a version of the Russian-designed AK-47, but was identified on the arrest warrant as an “AR AKMS.”

Harrison would not say whether the gun was connected to the deaths of the Mendozas, nor would he say why the woman had been charged with possessing a weapon of mass destruction.

“That’s still under investigation,” he said.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service