HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A 13-year-old girl with special needs was beheaded by drug dealers after witnessing them stab her grandmother to death in an Alabama cemetery, investigators said.
The grisly slayings came at the end of a drug deal gone bad, as the grandmother, Oralia Mendoza, who was associated with the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, went with three others, including her boyfriend, to pick up a batch of methamphetamine in Georgia.
After one of Mendoza’s drug partners grew suspicious that she was going to set them up, the gang drove her and her granddaughter, Mariah Lopez, to a cemetery in Owens Cross Road.
There they stabbed Mendoza and left her to die. They then marched Lopez into the woods where they beheaded her, Investigator Stacy Rutherford told a Madison County judge, according to AL.com.
Israel Palomino, 34, and 26-year-old Yoni Aguilar — who was Mendoza’s boyfriend — have been charged with two counts each of capital murder. Investigators say Aguilar confessed and also pointed the finger at Palomino.
The cross-state drug trip began on June 2, when Palomino, Aguilar, Mendoza and a woman named Leticia Garcia went to pick up a quarter kilo of meth in Norcross, Georgia. At some point, on the way back, Palomino grew concerned that Mendoza was setting them up, Rutherford testified.
On June 4, Mendoza was told she and Lopez would be taken somewhere safe, but were instead taken to the cemetery where Mendoza was killed. Because Lopez witnessed the slaying, the suspects took her to a secluded area in the woods to kill her.
In his statement, Aguilar said Palomino forced him to kill the girl. “He said he was fearful of Israel,” Rutherford testified.
Three days later, Lopez’s body was found. Less than an hour after police released a description of the girl’s clothes to the media, her mother came in and said she believed it was her daughter who had been missing. Mendoza’s body was found a week later after cops zeroed in on Aguilar and Palomino.