New details in shocking Madison County double-murder of grandmot - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New details in shocking Madison County double-murder of grandmother and teen

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)
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)
MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

New details have surfaced in a horrific double murder in Owens Cross Roads.

On Wednesday, the Madison County Sheriff's Office released more information on the killings of 13 year old Mariah Lopez and her grandmother, 49-year-old Oralia Mendoza.

At a press conference, officials revealed the two relatives were killed the same day even though their bodies were found about a week apart at different locations and that Mendoza was murdered first, then Lopez. Both victims died from “sharp force injury wounds.”

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office received notification from The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences confirming that Mendoza’s remains were located at Moon Cemetery on Cave Springs Road June 15, 2018. Positive identification was made through dental records.

“The means and mechanism of death are multiple sharp force injury wounds,” said Lt. Donny Shaw, public information officer for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

It started on June 7 when the Madison County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to Lemley Drive off of Cave Springs Road where farmers located the body of a female in the wood line on the property.

A death investigation was initiated and the body was recovered by the Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and Coroner, and then taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for autopsy and identification. A press release was developed to seek public information in identifying the unknown female and additional information surrounding the circumstances of her death.

Shortly after that story was aired by local media outlets, a woman came to the sheriff’s office and told investigators she believed the unknown female was her daughter who had been missing along with her mother that is her daughter’s legal guardian.

Information then led investigators to the area off Johnson Rd and Squaw Valley. Several people were taken to the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division for interviews. The investigation continued and on June 14, 2018 in a press release it was announced that through dental records, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences positively identified the remains of the unknown female as Mariah Lopez, 13 yr. old who was the victim of a homicide.

The press release also requested for anyone that may have information on her missing grandmother/guardian, Oralia Mendoza, who was believed to be endangered, to contact the Sheriff’s Office.

Also on June 14, key evidence was discovered, search warrants were executed, methamphetamine seized, interviews conducted and probable cause developed to arrest Yoni Martinez-Aguilar and Israel Palomino for Capital Murder of Lopez.

Further information was gained as to the location of Mendoza and on daybreak of June 15, investigators responded to Moon Cemetery where remains were located. The remains were recovered by the Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and the Coroner, and then taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for autopsy and identification.

Over the next several days, the investigation continued and on June 21, the suspects were served additional warrants for Capital Murder in regard to Mendoza. 

“Lopez’s means and mechanism of death is due to sharp force injury about the area of the neck. The Sheriff’s Office is not prepared to announce the motivation of the murders at this time. The investigation continues with interviews of those close to the deceased and arrestees and any others that come forward with any additional information. It is not believed there are others involved however if details lead to another avenue the will be pursued,” Lt. Shaw said during the press conference.

Anyone that may know anything of the activities of the victims or suspects leading up to early June is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 256-533-8820 or 256-722-7181.

Lt. Shaw added that in at least two media reports, neighbors raised questions about a white van, male, female and child. Contact was established with that van and people early on they were eliminated from any involvement.

The sheriff’s office thanked the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Local Agencies and local media outlets.

 “Everybody that has been involved is very much appreciated and did a lot to bring these two suspects to an arrest and being placed in the county jail and being placed into the criminal justice system within 8 days of us finding the body,” Lt. Shaw said.

Another new detail released by the sheriff's office was that Oralia Mendoza was in a relationship with one of the suspects, Yoni Martinez-Aguilar, and that he lived with the victims in Huntsville.

Aguilar and Israel Palomino are friends, Shaw said.

Officials declined to release any other information on how the victims were killed or on a possible motive in the case. Shaw says those details will come out in court.

The suspects have preliminary hearings set in the coming weeks according to court records. They are being held without bond in the Madison County Jail.

Members of the media asked what put the suspects on investigators’ radar and Lt. Shaw responded: “It was information that was gained through the investigation and that information will come out later in the preliminary hearing and other proceedings.”

Mariah and Mendoza were not affiliated with the area of Owens Cross Roads where their remains were discovered.

“There was no rhyme or reason why the bodies were left in that location. When they left the city that night, that's where they wound up and that's where the bodies were located. We believe their deaths occurred where their bodies were located,” Shaw explained.

Aguilar is undocumented, Palomino has a green card, Mendoza had an Alabama Driver’s License and Mariah Lopez was born in the USA, Shaw said.

Countless hours have gone into the investigation and veteran investigators who've been on the job for decades said that these killings are one of the worst things they've ever seen and they pushed to build a strong case against the two suspects.

“I can tell you that it's unfortunate that there were two people who were murdered. That's very sad and it hurts your heart. But in the ability to work with other agencies, and the media and the Hispanic community, and to come to a resolution, it is a very big sense of pride that we've been able to accomplish what we have,” Lt. Shaw stated.

At Challenger Middle School, where Mariah Lopez was a student, families have set up an account to help the victims' relatives with funeral expenses. Anyone can make contributions to the "Mariah Lopez and Oralia Mendoza Memorial Account" at any Wells Fargo location.

Here’s what the school posted on Facebook:

As many already know, our Challenger family has been impacted by the loss of one of our students, Mariah Lopez and her grandmother, Oralia Mendoza. No one is prepared to lose a child or other relative at such young ages. With the untimely passing of two family members, one can imagine the mounting costs of funeral and burial expenses that the family faces in addition to the unparalleled grief that is felt as well. Many have reached out to see what they can do in order to help the family during this time of loss. As a result, a memorial account has been set up via Wells Fargo Bank.

Anyone can make contributions to the "Mariah Lopez and Oralia Mendoza Memorial Account" simply by using the account name exactly as listed here. Alternatively, you can use the account number (6900928265), but you must make sure the teller/banker knows it is a memorial account to find it. Contributions can be made at any Wells Fargo location.

Once funeral arrangements have been made and the funeral home is able to accept donations on behalf of the family, all funds from the Wells Fargo account will be transferred to the funeral home to help cover those expenses. Anything in excess of those costs will be given to the immediate family to assist with other expenses and needs.

Copyright 2018 WAFF. All rights reserved.

Report an Error | Submit a Tip to WAFF 48

Powered by Frankly