Investigation continues into Red Rock murders

By: Staff Reports, Eloy Enterprise October 31, 2002

"This case is being handled as a No. 1 priority," Pinal County Sheriff Roger Vanderpool says as a homicide investigation continues into a double murder last week near Red Rock.Two men were killed Oct. 16 when two suspected immigrant smugglers drove up on Sasco Road and opened fire on a group of people that illegally crossed the border.

Investigators believe the survivors - except one who escaped - were forced to get into the smugglers' vehicle and leave with them.

Vanderpool has put together a task force of several Pinal County homicide detectives, persons crimes detectives and other members of the sheriff's office staff to concentrate on the investigation, according to Mike Minter, sheriff's spokesman.

One of the deceased victims has been identified as Jose Guadalupe-Lopez, 40, of Mexico City. The other victim is being considered a John Doe until positive identification can be determined.

The task force is working on several leads to obtain his identity. During the initial crime scene investigation, the lead detective was concerned with any possible survivors, and set up a search for them.

An area of approximately 15 square miles surrounding the scene was canvassed by Pinal County Search and Rescue coordinators, Sonoran Search and Rescue volunteer group members with scent tracking and cadaver dogs, Border Patrol Search and Rescue teams, a U.S. Customs helicopter equipped with infrared vision and a DPS Ranger helicopter with night vision capabilities.

No evidence was found indicating the survivors had left the scene on foot. There have been no leads indicating a "vigilante group" was involved, Vanderpool said.

Several interviews have been conducted by PCSO investigators with members of the Red Rock community, including surrounding area property owners, and their response has been that they believe that this was done by rival alien smuggling groups, not vigilantes.

During an interview by investigators, David Cook, assistant manager of the Red Rock Custom Feeding Company, said the survivor who walked to the feedlot was in a panicked state and kept saying, "They were soldiers," because the shooters were dressed in green fatigues, and because of helicopters flying near the area, but that he never mentioned camouflage clothing.

The crime scene is near the National Guard helicopter training site, and training flights frequently are conducted in the area. Cook said that the media kept pushing him to use the term "vigilante," but he never did. Cook reportedly told the media on several occasions "that the entire community felt the shooting was the result of rival 'coyote' wars."

As for the "yellow police tape fluttering in the breeze" and "four sticks arranged in the form of a cross" that were mentioned in one media story, they were actually stakes and crime scene tape that was used by investigators to block off the scene during the investigation and inadvertently were left.

The "X that had been burned into the dirt" was in reality black paint placed there by an investigator as an evidence reference point.

Investigators are requesting any persons with information regarding this case call 520-868-6861, or Pinal County Silent Witness at 520-868-6895.


©Casa Grande Valley Newspaper 2002