Body found in Madison County; may be missing woman - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Body found in Madison County; may be missing woman

Yoni Martinez Aguilar and Israel Gonzalez Palomino (Source: Madison County Sheriff's Office) Yoni Martinez Aguilar and Israel Gonzalez Palomino (Source: Madison County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Madison County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Madison County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Madison County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Madison County Sheriff's Office)
The scene where Mariah's body was found. (Source: WAFF 48 News) The scene where Mariah's body was found. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
The scene where remains were found near the cemetery, believed to be the body of Oralia Mendoza. (Source: WAFF 48 News) The scene where remains were found near the cemetery, believed to be the body of Oralia Mendoza. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

Authorities may have discovered the body of a missing Huntsville woman.

Investigators found human remains in the woods lining Moon Cemetery located off Cave Spring Road in Owens Cross Roads on Friday.

A spokesman for the Madison County Sheriff's Office says there is "reason to believe the remains are those of Oralia Mendoza," but adds that an official identification will need to be made by the Department of Forensic Sciences.

Mendoza and her granddaughter, 13-year-old Mariah Feit Lopez, have been missing since the weekend of June 2-3.

Lopez's body was discovered last week by a farmer on a property off Cave Spring Road, several miles from Moon Cemetery. Two people are in behind bars, charged with the teen's murder.

Lt. Donny Shaw, a public information officer for the Madison County Sheriff's Office, declined to say how Lopez was killed, only that it was “heinous.”

"It's a very brutal means of death and whenever the public learns of it, it's going to be shocking and it's going to be upsetting a lot of people. We want to deliver that information so that we don't harm the upcoming cases and trials that will be had," Shaw added.

On Friday morning, the Madison County Sheriff's Office said that 26-year-old Yoni Martinez Aguilar and 34-year-old Israel Gonzalez Palomino were both arrested in connection with the murder of Lopez. 

Aguilar is charged with murder and Palomino is charged with murder and drug possession.

"The teenager, deceased grandmother and arrestees all were acquainted with each other," Lt. Shaw stated in a press release. 

It's not clear yet if the two suspects will also be charged in connection with Mendoza's death.

Palomino is also facing a drug trafficking charge from May when Huntsville police say they found him with 34 grams of methamphetamine.

Mariah was an excellent student and made the A/B Honor Roll at her school, Shaw said.

Huntsville City Schools released the following statement on Thursday: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Mariah Lopez, a student at Challenger Middle School.  We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”


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Mariah and Mendoza, who is also the teen’s guardian, are not affiliated with the area of Owens Cross Roads where the remains were discovered, according to officials.

Authorities think the victims were each killed at the separate spots where the bodies were found.

"I have the belief that the locations where each of those persons were located is where their deaths occurred," Shaw said. 

Mendoza was reported missing to Huntsville police by concerned relatives on June 6, according to police reports.

For residents in Owens Cross Roads, the case hit too close to home. They voiced their concerns and expressed sympathy for those involved. 

"It's all within two or three miles from my house so it's exceptionally concerning terrifying. This is just so sad any way you cut it," said Julie Weir. 

Her children also attend Challenger Middle School. 

"My heart just goes out to the entire family and anyone who knew them," Weir added. "Two bodies in my neighborhood in Owens Cross Roads that's terrifying. I don't have a harsher word for that."

Robin Caldwell lives near the cemetery and was visiting the graves of relatives when she noticed a heavy police presence Friday morning.  

"We saw them bringing her body out. It was scary and terrifying. This is my hometown. We have family members buried here and this has just been really upsetting," she said. "It's heartbreaking. We have so many many family members around here and we live here and I'm a grandmother."

Shaw said a search warrant was served at the location where the suspects have been living on Thursday night.

Initially, Palomino was arrested for possession of Ice that was found and interviews continued simultaneously after that with both men at the Criminal Investigations Division.

At some point in the questioning, investigators developed probable cause to arrest the two for capital murder.

"During the night, leads were developed as to where we could go and find remains of the grandmother that has been missing," Shaw stated. "When we went out to Moon Cemetery, in short order, they found human remains."

"All indications that we have show that these remains should be that of the missing grandmother. It's a sad update but it's moving closer as to when we can make a positive identification, we can give this family some closure as to what happened, how it happened and what exactly occurred in this case," Shaw added.

The sheriff's office plans to hold a formal press conference when the identification of the remains found in the cemetery is confirmed.

When asked if any other arrests are expected in the case, Shaw responded: "This investigation is still continuing on. The investigators are going to be speaking to people who know the deceased and the arrestees and speaking to people in their immediate community and if anything comes out of it that shows we need to go down another avenue, we will."

The sheriff's office says the cooperation of the community has been a great help to investigators, as well as the assistance of other law enforcement agencies. Family members of Mariah Lopez also stepped forward when her body was found to help get the ball rolling on the investigation.

"For a murder where there were no indications, no witnesses, nothing to lean on when we began with it, the Hispanic community, the partners, the media, we've been able to do a phenomenal thing in just a little over seven days by coming to the arrests of two individuals," Shaw added.

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