Autopsy concludes Mission woman killed by gunshot or asphyxiation

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Reynaldo Cuevas Mercado III

An autopsy of the Mission woman who was killed and whose body was disposed of inside a compartment at her boyfriend’s apartment revealed that she died due to either a gunshot wound to the head or asphyxiation, police said in probable cause affidavits.

Reynaldo Mercado III, 33, and Kristian Valenzuela Jr., 24, were charged with murder and tampering with evidence after being booked on Sept. 2 and 3, respectively.

Kristian Valenzuela Jr.

Police received a report of a missing person, Editza Gomez, whose last known location was with her boyfriend, identified as Mercado, at his residence on Aug. 19.

Throughout the investigation, witnesses had informed authorities that Gomez had been seen leaving the Mercado residence, located at 1017 Miller in Mission.

On Aug. 30, police were informed that Mercado had “access to chained-up doors of sheds or concealed compartments” at his residence and property.

Through the use of aerial surveillance police found ground disturbances that indicated digging had occurred in the area, authorities said in the affidavits.

After obtaining a search warrant investigators searched the scene with the help of U.S. Border Patrol cadaver canines and found a body, later identified as Gomez, concealed in a compartment between the living room and kitchen areas, police wrote.

Tattoos on the body confirmed it to be Gomez during an autopsy.

During that time, Valenzuela voluntarily turned himself in to police and told authorities he witnessed Mercado and Gomez arguing the day she was reported missing.

He explained he was in the shower throughout the altercation and heard a single gunshot. As he came out of the shower he heard another two shots and saw Gomez on the kitchen floor “dying and still breathing,” police said.

Valenzuela claimed Mercado had threatened him with a handgun and shotgun to help hide Gomez’s body. He added that he helped Mercado wrap her body in sheets and trash bags before placing her in the compartments.

He then helped him clean the house to “get rid of the evidence of murder,” and later burned a DVR and cleaning products in a barbecue pit.

Police found each item during their investigation.

During the autopsy, which was conducted on Sept. 1, authorities found a single gunshot wound to Gomez’s head along with layers of trash bags, towels, bedsheets and see-through tarp wrapped around the body that was secured with tape and black cable wires, according to the affidavits.

As of now, police are attributing her death to the gunshot wound and asphyxiation until “a final determination is made,” and have ruled out accidental death.

Both suspects are being held on bonds of $3 million for murder and $500,000 for tampering and fabricating physical evidence, which included Gomez’s body.