A severed head found near a trail in Arlington on Saturday afternoon has led to the discovery of what investigators suspect is the remainder of the body and another buried in a shallow grave behind a nearby residence.
Arlington police have arrested an 18-year-old suspect, Mariano Sanchez-Pina, and are seeking the public’s help in locating a second suspect, 28-year-old Hector “Cholo” Acosta-Ojeda, who is described by police as “armed and extremely dangerous.”
The victims have not been positively identified as of Tuesday but witnesses have indicated to investigators that they may be a man known as “Diablo” and his 17-year-old girlfriend.
Their buried bodies were discovered Monday afternoon.
Lt. Chris Cook, an Arlington police spokesman, said investigators have not ruled out that the killings are drug-related.
“Investigators believe that the victims were specifically targeted in this offense and this was not a random incident,” Cook said.
The gruesome case began to unfold Saturday afternoon after a man found the severed head near a man-made walking trail in a wooded area west of the intersection of East Sanford and Truman streets, less than half-a-mile southwest of AT&T Stadium.
“We believe it was purposely placed in a manner to where it would be discovered by someone walking in the area,” Cook said.
Next to the head was a sign that stated “La Raza Se Resreta y Faltan 4.” Loosely translated, the message intended appears to be “The race, or group, must be respected and there’s only four left.”
“We won’t speculate on what the sign means; however, we’re taking it into consideration as we move forward in the investigation,” Cook said. “At this point, we haven’t located any other deceased persons.”
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office is leading an excavation at the Burton residence for any other potential bodies, Cook said.
Subject ‘stabbed to death’
Police were investigating the severed head when they were alerted that officers had arrested a man, Sanchez-Pina, on an outstanding warrant who claimed to have information about the discovered body.
Sanchez-Pina told the officers that he had been taken by several guys and forced to watch a murder, according to a search warrant affidavit.
“He described being tied up at an unspecified location and witnessing a subject be(ing) stabbed to death,” the affidavit states.
In an interview with homicide investigators, Sanchez-Pina told police that a man he knew only as “Cholo” had been threatening to kill him because he believed Sanchez-Pina had stolen money from him.
He told detectives that Cholo and a second man he recently met, known as Diablo, had come to his Arlington house on Friday but he refused to open his door because he was scared and the men left.
Anyone who sees or has information about the whereabouts of Hector “Cholo” Acosta-Ojeda is asked to call 817-575-8823 or Crime Stoppers at 817-469-TIPS (8477).
He said that later Friday, Cholo called him and ordered that he come to Cholo’s residence in the 200 block of Burton Drive or be killed. Sanchez-Pina told detectives that he went to the residence, where he found the front door slightly ajar and a dead man on the living room floor.
Though a jacket was covering the dead man’s head, Sanchez-Pina told investigators he believed the dead man was Diablo based on the man’s clothing. He said he became fearful and left the location, the affidavit states.
But arriving back at his home, Sanchez-Pina told police that Cholo called him again, ordering him back to his house or he would be killed.
Sanchez-Pina said when he arrived back at the Burton house, he was directed to the home’s back yard where he saw Cholo digging a large hole as several others stood watching.
Cholo told Sanchez-Pina he “wanted him to see how they handled things,” Sanchez-Pina told investigators.
Gruesome photos on cellphone
Diablo, according to Sanchez-Pina, was from El Salvador and had been living at the Burton residence with Cholo. He also had a girlfriend about 17 years in age, the affidavit states.
Other witnesses located by investigators, however, indicated that Sanchez-Pina may have played a larger role in the slaying.
“We believe he was an active participant in the murder,” Cook said.
One witness told police that they had heard Sanchez and an unknown man talking about how Diablo had previously burglarized Sanchez’s apartment. Sanchez later told the witness that he had to leave because the other man “was going to kill somebody and he was going to record it,” the affidavit states.
Another witness told detectives that a visibly upset Sanchez-Pina had confided in her that multiple people had picked him up and forced him to go to the Burton residence. There, Cholo forced him to cut off the arms of Diablo, Sanchez-Pina told the woman.
Other witnesses told police that Cholo had been showing pictures on his phone of the crime scene and Diablo’s head. One of the witnesses said Acosta-Ojeda admitted to him that he had killed Diablo and the man’s 17-year-old girlfriend.
Acosta-Ojeda is described as 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds. He reportedly has a tattoo on his arm that reads “el mas odiado,” translated as “the most hated.”