Northeast Tarrant

Documents: Slain Southlake cartel lawyer knew ‘he had been found’

Police in 2013 investigate the scene at the Southlake Town Square where lawyer Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa was killed.
Police in 2013 investigate the scene at the Southlake Town Square where lawyer Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa was killed.

The Mexican drug cartel lawyer fatally shot at an upscale Southlake shopping center in 2013 was in fear “because he had been found by people who wanted to kill him,” according to new court documents filed Monday.

Prosecutors also alleged that conspirators tried early in their search to get the U.S. government to deport Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, reportedly the lawyer for the onetime leader of the Gulf cartel.

Guerrero was shot multiple times with a 9 mm handgun May 22, 2013, as he and his wife returned to their Range Rover after shopping at Southlake Town Square.

Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 59, and his son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano, 32, and Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes are scheduled to go on trial in the killing April 25 in Fort Worth. They have been jailed since their arrests in September 2014.

Prosecutors filed documents this month linking the three to nine people who were slain or went missing over the years.

$38,000 conspiracy

Monday’s documents named a fourth co-conspirator, Luis Lauro Ramirez-Bautista, who “provided the financial resources to finance the search.”

When Ramirez-Bautista was stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2011, he told a Border Patrol agent he was looking for Guerrero. He showed the agent photos of Guerrero’s Southlake home, and said Guerrero was a drug dealer who should be deported to Mexico.

Ramirez-Bautista’s meeting at the border was “designed to enlist the assistance of the government in returning Guerrero to Mexico so that Ramirez-Bautista and others could kill him,” the documents state.

When that didn’t work, Ramirez-Bautista sent a drug dealer four times, from November 2012 to January 2013, to pay Ledezma-Cepeda a total of $38,000, according to the documents.

At some point before the killing, Guerrero “received calls from others to warn him that he was in danger, because he had been found by people who wanted to kill him.”

“Immediately after hanging up the phone, he informed his wife he was scared,” the documents state. “He also told her he didn’t want to go back to the house. He stated that the individuals looking for him knew where they lived.”

Guerrero told his wife to stop using their cellphones.

He was “startled that he had been found,” according to the documents.

Two-year plot

Before Guerrero’s death, the three men had rented a Grapevine apartment, set up a surveillance camera in Guerrero’s Southlake neighborhood and placed a GPS monitor on his car, according to a federal criminal complaint.

The men traveled from Mexico to Southlake between March 1, 2011, and May 22, 2013, with the intent of killing Guerrero, according to case documents.

Cepeda-Cortes used email, photographs and other surveillance tools to locate Guerrero, the criminal complaint said.

The suspects also bought and rented numerous vehicles so they could change cars frequently and avoid detection, the paperwork said. They placed tracking devices on their own vehicles as well as multiple vehicles owned by Guerrero and his relatives, including the Range Rover in which he was killed.

Ledezma-Cepeda and Ledezma-Campano were arrested in September 2014 when they crossed the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, near McAllen. Cepeda-Cortes was arrested at his home in Edinburg, where he was living legally with a green card.

Prosecutors said in November that they will not seek the death penalty against the three suspects, according to court documents.