Mercedes man charged with tampering with corpse in San Juan murder

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Alejandro Cantu

The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a 28-year-old Mercedes man on a charge of tampering with a human corpse for a brutal murder in San Juan.

Investigators arrested Alejandro Cantu on Wednesday for the May 7 murder of Juan Carlos Hernandez de Leon, whose body was later found in a barrel on a property in Edinburg.

He is the third man to be arrested.

So far, investigators have 47-year-old Mission resident Samuel Uvalle Sr. and 43-year-old San Juan resident Jesus Grijalva in custody on a charge of murder for the grisly slaying.

They are still searching for 35-year-old Roberto Salas, who has an active warrant for murder.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts 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.

Probable cause affidavits in the case indicate that investigators believe Hernandez was beaten with a “hammer tool” before being placed in a barrel and buried at 4610 E. Wisconsin Road in Edinburg.

In a news release, the sheriff’s office said investigators developed information that indicated that Cantu was seen picking up the excavator used to bury the barrel with Hernandez’s body in it and that he knew the body was inside the barrel.

The man was murdered after Samuel Uvalle Sr. began arguing with Hernandez at a residence located at 1913 Morningset Road in San Juan.

Samuel Uvalle Sr, Jesus Grijalva and Roberto Salas

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

This happened at around 4 a.m. on May 7, according to the affidavit.

A federal criminal complaint against Samuel Uvalle Sr.’s son, Samuel Uvalle Jr., indicates that the San Juan residence was a stash house.

During the investigation, Border Patrol agents, who were conducting surveillance on the residence with sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Marshals, took six people in the country illegally into custody.

One of those people told investigators that they heard a beating take place there.

Samuel Uvalle Jr. remains in federal custody.

His father and Grijalva remain held in the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center on a $5 million bond.

Cantu also remains jailed there on a $1 million bond.