Teens indicted on murder charges in January deaths of Wake County couple

ablythe@newsobserver.comAugust 21, 2013 

— Two teenagers face first-degree murder charges in the fatal shootings eight months ago of a Garner couple who worked in the kitchen of a Golden Corral restaurant.

A Wake County grand jury on Tuesday handed up indictments charging Isrrael Vasquez and Jonathan Santillan, the teens accused of killing Jose S. Flores Mendoza and Maria Saravia Mendoza, who investigators have described as unintended targets in a war between rival gangs.

Investigators contend the teens broke in to the Mendozas’ home outside Garner just after midnight on Jan. 5 wielding guns, looking for rival gang members. Vasquez was 16 at the time, and Santillan was 15.

In May, a Wake County district court judge found that prosecutors had enough evidence and probable cause to transfer Santillan’s case to adult court.

Under state law, when anyone 13 or older is charged with first-degree murder, their cases must be transferred to adult court.

But until the indictments on Tuesday, Santillan’s name had not been publicly revealed, an acknowledgement of his youth.

In the indictments, Vasquez and Santillan are each accused of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the Mendozas and conspiracy to commit murder against David Gonzalez and Juan Hernandez.

Santillan also is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, an accusation that investigators contend stemmed from a Dec. 4 incident in which the teen is accused of assaulting Hernandez with a handgun. The grand jury also handed up an indictment charging Santillan with possession of a handgun with an altered serial number – a .45-caliber Haskell that investigators said the teen had in his possession on Jan. 15.

Vasquez also faces weapons charges, according to the indictments.

He is accused of possessing a Maadi 7.62 mm assault rifle on Jan. 15 that had been stolen. Like Santillan, Vasquez also is accused of possessing the .45-caliber Haskell with the altered serial number.

The Mendozas were found dead in their home at 708 Colonial Drive shortly after 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 5. Their 3-year-old son was found unharmed.

Investigators found dozens of shell casings from a .45-caliber handgun and a 7.62 mm rifle throughout the home, according to search warrants, and were able to tie the accused to the weapons through an investigation into a Dec. 4 shooting on Meadowbrook Road in which a man had been shot in the ankle.

Two other men linked to the Meadowbrook Road shooting – Moises Reyes and his brother, Pablo Vincente Reyes – were also indicted Tuesday on charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious bodily injury.

Moises Reyes was also indicted on a charge of accessory after the fact to murder. The indictment accuses him of attempting to help Santillan and Vasquez flee the scene of the Mendoza shooting.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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