A 24-year-old man shot three times in a home invasion robbery that left his girlfriend dead told police that he had recently sold marijuana on behalf of one of the suspects and was attacked when the man returned for his money with accomplices.
Ricardo Casteneda Jr., 24, told police that suspect Steven Moreno, 17, told him that he had obtained the marijuana by “hitting a lick,” and Moreno wanted Casteneda to hold it for him and help him sell it, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Casteneda said he called Moreno on Jan. 12 — the day of the shooting — to tell him that he had arranged to sell the marijuana for about $30,000 and that Moreno could pick up his money.
But when Moreno arrived, Casteneda told police, he immediately punched Casteneda in the face before other men stormed into the house and began shooting.
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Casteneda was shot once and ran to a back room, where he collapsed.
“He recalled hearing one of the suspects tell another ‘finish him’ and he was shot two additional times,” according to the affidavit. “Ricardo pretended to be dead, and he ultimately lost consciousness. When he woke up, he began trying to find his girlfriend.”
Nancy Mata, 17, was found dead between the foyer and living room. She had been shot in the face. Police have said she was killed despite meeting the robbers’ demands that she show them where the money and marijuana were.
On Tuesday, police arrested Moreno on a capital murder warrant. Homicide Sgt. Joe Loughman said no other arrests are expected.
Already facing capital murder charges in Mata’s death are Israel Ruiz, 17; Daquarias Dennis, 18; and Aaron Rios, 19. The three remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $1 million each.
Surveillance video evidence
According to the affidavit, surveillance video shows a Cadillac Escalade pull up in front of the house in the 3700 block of Bee Tree Lane and park. A man, believed to be Moreno, got out and walked to the front door.
He was quickly joined by three men wearing latex gloves and appearing to try to cover their faces with hoods. At least one was obviously carrying a handgun, the affidavit states.
The video then shows the Escalade’s driver turn the vehicle in the street to face the opposite direction, the affidavit states. The video then abruptly stops.
After the shooting, investigators found the house ransacked, littered with shell casings and with bullet “strikes” in the wall. They found nearly $53,000 in cash and a “substantial amount of marijuana” hidden in the house, the affidavit states.
A discarded box of Curad latex rubber gloves was found near a curb where the Escalade had parked. Through the universal product code on the box, investigators were able to determine that the brand was sold at Wal-Mart stores.
Investigators later obtained video showing a similar Escalade at a nearby Wal-Mart on McCart Avenue about 15 minutes before the shooting.
One of the SUV occupants, who looked similar to a man on the video from the Bee Tree house, entered the store and bought a box of Curad latex gloves, the affidavit states.
‘She wasn’t doing anything’
On Jan. 15, detectives Matt Barron and Tom O’Brien interviewed the man suspected of driving the Escalade.
He told them that he had agreed to give Moreno and some friends a ride to a house to buy marijuana.
When they arrived at the house on Bee Tree, the man said, Moreno called a man inside the house and asked if he could purchase narcotics. He said the man told Moreno he was busy with another customer and to come back later.
The man said the group then drove to the Wal-Mart, where Dennis went inside and bought an unknown item. As he drove the group back to the Bee Tree residence, he could hear the men putting on rubber gloves and saw they had pistols, he told the detectives.
Moreno approached the house first, and the others rushed in behind him after Casteneda opened the door and turned to walk back inside, the man said.
He said he quickly heard shots inside, but the men did not emerge for about six minutes.
Dennis, he told police, was the first to come back to the truck. He was carrying what appeared to be a 40-inch television. The man told police that Dennis was crying and said, “They killed the girl and she wasn’t doing anything.”
Next, the man said, Moreno came back to the SUV carrying what appeared to be the recording device from the surveillance cameras.
On the ride home, the driver told police, Moreno remarked excitedly to Rios that “we took the big plug out.”