Diego Handelin Valdivia Villonueva, 19, and 41-year-old Jorge Pablo Gonzalez, allegedly shot 31-year-old Jesus Cisneros Meza in the kitchen of Senor Carlos Restaurant at the Skyvue Shopping Center in Salem, where they all worked.
Meza's body was discovered the next day in the cargo bed of his pickup truck, which was spotted by a passing motorist, just off Highway 9 south of Melbourne.
Izard County Deputies found information in the truck that indicated the victim may have ties to Salem. After Salem Police Chief Al Roork was notified, he identified the distinctive copper colored Dodge truck as belonging to Meza, an employee of Senor Carlos Restaurant.
Seven Arkansas State Police investigators and two from Izard County joined Roork in Salem to investigate what appeared to be an obvious murder.
Less than 12 hours later, the two suspects were in custody.
According to an Affidavit of Probable Cause For Arrest filed by State Police Special Agent Todd Shaw, the victim, Jesus Meza, was an employee and part owner of Senor Carlos Restaurant, a popular restaurant which opened last summer in a long vacant building in the Skyvue Shopping Center.
Customers who ate lunch in the restaurant on Monday, Oct. 25, were told by Pablo Gonzalez, the talkative, outgoing manager of the restaurant, that he was worried because Meza had not reported for work that morning.
According to Shaw's affidavit, Special Agent Dennis Simons went to Senor Carlos Restaurant on Monday afternoon and spoke with Gonzalez to get background information on Meza. During the interview, Gonzalez began making "incriminating statements," saying the person who shot Meza was a kitchen worker, Diego Handelin Valdivia Villonueva, and Gonzalez "admitted that he helped clean the crime scene and dispose of the body of the victim."
At that point, Simons stopped the interview, ordered the restaurant closed, and all employees were taken to the Fulton County Sheriff's Department for statements.
At the Sheriff's office, Gonzalez continued his confession admitting he supplied the gun used to kill Meza, instructed Villonueva to bring Meza to the restaurant and gave him $200 after the murder was committed.
Villonueva, who does not speak English, was questioned through an interpreter. He, largely, confirmed Gonzalez's story, admitting Gonzalez planned the murder and he followed Gonzalez's instructions.
According to the court filed affidavit, Gonzalez told investigators that "he did not like Jesus Cisneros Meza and that he believed Jesus Cisneros Meza was attempting to cause him to lose his job."
Gonzalez was transported to the Izard County Detention Center where Circuit Judge Tim Weaver appeared on Tuesday, Oct. 26, to inform him he was being held on a charge of Capital Murder.
Diego Handelin Valdivia Villonueva appeared in Fulton County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Oct. 27, before District Judge Jim Short.
A court certified translator from Little Rock, sent by the Administrative Office of the Courts, was asked by Judge Short to read to Villonueva the official charges being lodged against him.
After looking at the document, interpreter Mara Simmons, said, "I want to confirm something. So, this is a death penalty case?"
Prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee confirmed that the Capital Murder charge is one that could result in the death sentence.
Simmons then read the charging document to Villonueva, in Spanish.
Villonueva, who is just 19-years-old, did not visibly react to news of the Capital Murder charge.
When asked by Judge Short if he had any questions, Villonueva asked, though the interpreter, "When are you going to get my lawyer?"
Judge Short replied that Nov. 23 is the date he will appear in court for his formal arraignment. Short advised that Circuit Judge Weaver would request an attorney for him and, by the 23rd, one will be appointed.
As Villonueva was taken back to the Fulton County Jail, he asked Chief Roork, "Novembre Vente-tres?"
"Yes, November, 23rd," Roork replied, confirming Villonueva and Gonzalez's next court appearance.
The two suspects were initially held on charges of murder and aggravated robbery.
Prosecutors amended the murder charge to Capital Murder and dropped the robbery count.
On Friday, Oct. 29, Villonueva was moved to the Izard County Detention Center for security reasons.
"This was a very serious crime and the reason it was solved so quickly is the good cooperation between agencies," said Chief Roork. "The state police and Izard County criminal investigators are very, very good technicians. They know their job and I know my people and I'm thankful we could bring this to finality so quickly."
A news release, last week, from the Izard County Sheriff's Department indicated that members of the 16th Judicial Drug Task Force and the Arkansas Department of Correction dog team also assisted in the initial investigation.
So far, investigators have given no indication that drugs or drug trafficking were involved in Meza's murder.