The Investigators

Apr 17, 2014 2:33 PM by Lupita Murillo and Michel Marizco

N4T Investigators: Murder crosses the line

NOGALES, AZ - Pamela Coronado wants justice for the murders of two of her brothers. And she's taking to the streets of Nogales, Ariz., to get it.

Coronado and her family are trying to convince prosecutors in Santa Cruz County to seek charges against a man whom they believe may have had a role in the execution of her two brothers from Arizona. The case is a murky one because the killings happened across the border in Nogales, Sonora, and may have been planned in the U.S.

Coronado's brothers, Antonio, 22, and Adrian, 20, were found dead less than a mile across the border in Nogales, Sonora, on March 16. From the beginning, the murders were mysterious: Two U.S. citizens, both brothers, killed in Mexico in broad daylight. Their bodies were found by their car on the busy street of Periférico Luis Donaldo Colosio on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Last week, Pamela Coronado started a petition; hoping to gather enough signatures to convince Santa County Attorney George Silva and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to investigate the double homicide under Arizona law.

"The reason I'm doing this petition is not out of revenge, it's out of justice," she said.
Police in Arizona are investigating whether this case goes back to last January. Two months ago, Antonio Coronado told police he was the victim of a home invasion. His home, a small apartment in a public housing complex, lies less than a half mile away from the Nogales Police Department. Police say the man they've charged with the attack targeted the wrong house.

The assailants allegedly accused Antonio Coronado of telling police about a drug load. One man even cut Antonio with a machete.

Eduardo Hernandez is accused of being the man who attacked Antonio. Police say Hernandez then tried to pressure Antonio to stop cooperating with law enforcement. He allegedly contacted Antonio Coronado four times, offering him money and cars. Then, on March 16, Nogales, Ariz., police confirm that Antonio and his younger brother, Adrian, were lured into Mexico by Antonio's own mother-in-law who told them she needed to go to the hospital.

"My younger brother went in sandals and in basketball shorts. They went to the hospital and that was the last that they were seen," Pamela Coronado said, sobbing.

Two days after the killings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirms that a woman came up to the Arizona border to tell U.S. officials of a possible crime that took place in Mexico and that she herself was victimized. The agency would not elaborate on the details of the woman's report.

Now law enforcement agencies in both countries are faced with the daunting task of piecing together the events to determine if a double homicide crossed the international line, a legal entanglement that's nearly unheard of in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Law enforcement officials say the case is made more difficult by the fact that local law enforcement in Nogales and Santa Cruz County do not have as close of a relationship with their counterparts at the Sonora State Police as they had in the past. The state police in Sonora is charged with investigating the double murders in Mexico. Officials with the state police declined to comment on the status of their investigation.

All of which is frustrating Pamela Coronado.

"It seems that jurisdiction only serves to aid criminals," she said.

Hernandez has not been charged with homicide. Last Friday, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office confirmed Hernandez is being held on charges of obstruction of a criminal investigation and on parole violation. His lawyer declined to comment on the case and on the possibility of his client facing homicide charges in Arizona.

The Nogales Police Department is only investigating what crimes were committed during the alleged home invasion.

"The information that we received from the family and witnesses is that the suspect, Mr. Hernandez, was having contact with Mr. Coronado against the conditions of his release that he was arrested for prior to the aggravated assault due to the home invasion," said Nogales Police Department spokesman Lt. Carlos Jimenez.

Whether Antonio Coronado was killed before he could testify remains unclear. But police say that the attempts to keep him from working with police had failed. He wanted to do the right thing.

"The statements that we received, once again, from the girlfriend, was he felt that he did something wrong and needed to answer for his actions. He assaulted him. He threatened his girlfriend in front of the children that were in the residence where this occurred," Jimenez said.

County attorney Silva has not said whether he will press for those charges. But Pamela Coronado is continuing to press local citizens to convince prosecutors to take on this case.

"If nobody in the United States is charged with homicide, nothing deters another person that has a problem with somebody in Nogales, Ariz., or Rio Rico, or in any other border town in the United States, that all they have to do is get them across the border into Mexico, kill them and come back and there is no accountability. If in this case, there is no justice, it's going to continue to happen again," she said.

People here, it's clear, seem to agree. They're signing the petition.

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