Man found dead in Edinburg was beaten with hammer at San Juan stash house

Samuel Uvalle Sr., Jesus Grijalva and Roberto Salas
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The man found buried on an Edinburg property last Friday died after being beaten with a “hammer tool,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

So far, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office investigators have arrested two of three suspects accused in the case, including 47-year-old Mission resident Samuel Uvalle Sr. and 43-year-old San Juan resident Jesus Grijalva, for the presumed killing of Juan Carlos Hernandez de Leon, who has been missing since May 6.

A third suspect, 35-year-old Roberto Salas, is still on the run, according to a news release from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.

As the investigation developed, investigators learned that on May 15 a person known as “Joker,” who was identified as Grijalva, was using a tractor to bury something at 4610 E. Wisconsin Road in Edinburg, according to the affidavit.

When authorities executed a search warrant there on Friday they found the victim’s body.

Investigators obtained witness statements that said Samuel Uvalle Sr. began arguing with Hernandez at a residence located at 1913 Morningset Road in San Juan on May 7, according to the affidavit.

“Samuel Uvalle (Sr.) started to assault Juan Carlos with a hammer,” the affidavit stated. “Roberto Salas and Jesus Grijalva joined Samuel Uvalle (Sr.) on the assault. Jesus Grijalva Jr. utilized a hammer tool to assault Juan Carlos.”

The affidavit said this happened at around 4 a.m. on May 7.

The suspects then placed his body in the barrel and took him to the Edinburg property where they buried him.

“Witness’s statements corroborated that the deceased male is presumed to be Juan Carlos Hernandez de Leon,” the affidavit stated.

Samuel Uvalle Sr.’s son, Samuel Uvalle Jr., who was born in 2002, was arrested on that property on federal human smuggling charges on Saturday while the United States Marshal Service and sheriff’s deputies were conducting surveillance at the residence during an ongoing investigation.

His father was arrested that same day in Edinburg in the 1400 block of Quitaca.

The sheriff’s office previously said that the homicide occurred at a residence in the 1900 block of Morningset Road in San Juan, which is where Grijalva was arrested last Thursday, according to a news release.

While authorities were conducting surveillance at the San Juan residence on Saturday, they observed six people exit the home and walk to a nearby restaurant where they were contacted by a Border Patrol agent.

The people freely admitted to being illegally present in the United States and that a “young male armed with a longarm (sic) was at the residence,” according to a federal criminal complaint.

Marshals and deputies maintained surveillance and observed Samuel Uvalle Jr. exit and leave the residence. Those deputies followed him to a second residence where he was approached and questioned.

Samuel Uvalle Jr. admitted to deputies that he knew the six people were illegally present in the country and that he didn’t want them at the residence. He was then arrested along with the six others and taken to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station where he declined to speak without the presence of an attorney.

Two Guatemalan citizens spoke to police and stated that Samuel Uvalle Sr. and Samuel Uvalle Jr., who was also known as “Cuz,” were the caretakers of the stash house. They added that three of the six people there had been threatened by Samuel Uvalle Sr.

“The son had an AK-47 rifle with him,” the complaint said. “He added that, at one point during their stay, he heard someone being beaten.”

That Guatemalan citizen then said that Samuel Uvalle Jr. told them that his father was wanted by law enforcement for a murder charge and told the group to leave because “everything is screwed.”

The other Guatemalan said that Samuel Uvalle Jr. would always be carrying the AK-47 and would threaten to kill them if they tried to do anything “stupid.”

That person said they feared for their life as Samue Uvalle Sr. and Samuel Uvalle Jr. had multiple firearms and would abuse drugs, according to the complaint.

The father-son duo were positively identified in a photo lineup by both Guatemalan citizens.

Samuel Uvalle Jr. appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan F. Alanis for his initial appearance and will return Thursday afternoon for a preliminary examination and detention hearing.

Samuel Uvalle Sr. and Grijalva, who is also facing six additional drug charges, were scheduled to make a first appearance at the courthouse in the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center early Monday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office at (956) 383-8114. To remain anonymous, call the Hidalgo County Crime Stoppers Hotline at (956) 668-8477 or submit tips through the P3 TIPS app.