A man who has been in prison since 2002 was returned to Wake County on Thursday to face an indictment for first-degree murder in the 2001 killing of a man whose bones were found along a road near Apex. The victim had remained unidentified until 2015.
Marcos Candela Dela Cruz, 43, was indicted Feb. 22 by a Wake County grand jury that concluded he had killed Isabel Lopez, also known as Isabel Chavez, in Raleigh on May 21, 2001.
A person came to Raleigh police in 2015 with information about a killing. That started them on a path that led to identifying the bones and eventually connecting the crime to Cruz, police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.
Police also established a date when they think Lopez was slain.
Lopez, officials say now, was the person whose bones were found in a wooded area off Jenks Road near U.S. 64 on July 9, 2003. A forester surveying timber stumbled on them.
All authorities knew was that the victim was male, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said at the time.
Howard J. Cummings, the assistant district attorney who presented the case to the grand jury last month, said the bones were identified through DNA analysis and contact with members of Lopez’s family.
Cummings said the case also depended on DNA that connected Cruz, but he declined to discuss details.
Lopez had been reported missing in 2001, Sughrue said. There was no reason then to suspect foul play, Sughrue said. Police could find no trace of him, and it remained a missing-persons case.
When the bones were discovered in 2003, John W. Monroe, the forester who found them, said a skull was about 20 feet away from other remains. They were in a shallow depression in an area about 50 yards off Jenks Road, officials said.
They declined to disclose other details then about the scene or the condition of the bones.
On Thursday, Cruz was booked into the Wake County Detention Center after officials brought him from the state’s Brown Creek prison near Polkton, in Anson County.
Raleigh police had charged Cruz with murder in July 2002, saying he shot Jimmy Cervantes Ramierez to death after an argument at 611 Peyton St., where they both lived.
Cruz pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in that case in December 2002 and began a prison term of between five and six years.
In April 2004, state records show, he was convicted of raping a girl under 13 on Oct. 1, 2001.
When his manslaughter sentence ended on Feb. 15, 2008, Cruz began serving a sentence for the rape that is scheduled to keep him in prison until 2040.
Cruz was expected to be brought before a judge on Friday on the new indictment.