41-year-old Jorge Pablo Gonzalez and 19-year-old Diego Handelin Valdiva Villonueva appeared in court on Nov. 23 for their arraignment before Circuit Judge Tim Weaver.
Gonzalez and Villonueva both pled not guilty to the Oct. 24 shooting death of 31-year-old Jesus Cisneros Meza. All three worked at the Senor Carlos Restaurant at the Skyvue Plaza in Salem.
Judge Weaver set a pre-trial date of February 9, 2011 and a trial date of March 8.
In scheduling the trial date, Judge Weaver said, "I know that is earlier than will probably happen, but it will get things going."
An interpreter from the Administrative Office of the Courts was present to inform Villonueva what was being said at the short hearing.
The interpreter was standing by during Gonzalez's arraignment, although Gonzalez is fluent in English and has not requested the services of a translator.
Since their arrests, attorneys have been appointed to represent the defendants. In capital murder cases, two attorneys are appointed, with one specializing in laws and rulings regarding the death penalty.
The defendants are being held in the Izard County Detention Center and Fulton County Deputies transported them to and from court.
Gonzalez's sister, two nieces and a niece's husband, who live in Missouri, were present during the hearing and briefly spoke with him during a recess.
Gonzalez left the courtroom in tears after being hugged by his relatives.
According to documents filed by prosecutors, Gonzalez, the manager of Senor Carlos, hired Villonueva to kill Meza, a part owner and waiter at the Salem restaurant.
Meza's body was found in his truck, which had been abandoned near Melbourne.
An intensive police investigation quickly led to the restaurant and, according to investigators, Gonzalez and Villon-ueva confessed to their roles in killing Meza at the restaurant, cleaning up the murder scene and disposing of the body.
A court document indicates Gonzalez told investigators "he did not like Jesus Cisneros Meza and that he believed Meza was attempting to cause him to lose his job."
AreaWide News has re- ceived e-mails, written in Spanish, from family members of Gonzalez and Villoneuva in response to stories about the murder.
In one, a relative of Villonueva asks for prayers for all of the families involved. It goes on to say, however, that Gonzalez planned the murder and used Villoneuva, who is only 19, and "due to this man (Gonzalez), he is a young man with no future."
Another e-mail states, "My uncle is Mr. Jorge Pablo Gonzalez and is an excellent guy friend and is like a second father and it is impossible for (him) to do something (like this)." The letter goes on to allege Villoneuva committed the murder and forced Gonzalez to assist him, afterward.
Last month, Carlos Aguillar, the owner of Senor Carlos Restaurant told Area Wide News he intended to reopen the restaurant to gauge whether the public would still support it.
The restaurant has not reopened, however, and Aguillar has not responded to requests for further comment on the restaurant's future.