Suspects in fatal rural Mercedes attempted kidnapping, murder tied to human smuggling

Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra held a press conference Tuesday morning regarding the attempted kidnapping turned murder that occurred last week where it was revealed that those involved are tied to a “group of human smugglers.”

Guerra referred to the shooting victim, 19-year-old Carlos Garcia Ruiz, as the “ringleader” during the conference which correlates to what was stated in the probable cause affidavit for his sister’s arrest.

“Sheriff’s investigators obtained separate statements from Rosalba Sarahi Garcia and Joselyn Lomeli who admitted to their involvement in the tampering with physical evidence in an aggravated kidnapping planned by Carlos Garcia Ruiz, which ultimately resulted in his death,” the affidavit said.

Garcia’s sister, 17-year-old Rosalba, along with Lomeli, 18, Ashley Dinhora Evelin Orozco, 21, and 19-year-old Esmeralda Lee Orozco have been charged with murder and tampering with evidence. The Orozco’s are sisters.

At the conference, Guerra also identified the two other gunmen that had accompanied Garcia in his attempted kidnapping as 22-year-old Erik Eduardo Almarez and 20-year-old Gerson Escobar.

Through the course of the investigation, police later learned that Almarez and Escobar were in federal custody as U.S. Border Patrol had arrested them early Friday morning approximately 24 hours after the murder.

A criminal complaint obtained Tuesday morning states that Border Patrol agents responded to a sensor activation in the brush west of the Falfurrias checkpoint at about 3 a.m. and found two people attempting to circumvent the checkpoint.

Both were apprehended and identified as Escobar and Almarez, who was carrying a black backpack containing $1,815, three cell phones and a change of clothing.

The federal complaint, however, refers to Almarez as “Almaraz” and states that Escobar’s full name is Gerson Escobar-Orellana. He is a citizen of El Salvador.

Escobar told authorities that he had crossed into the U.S. three months ago and was able to get a job at a barber shop where he befriended Almarez who told him he’d take Escobar to New York City.

The two requested a lawyer once they were questioned about the money found in the backpack.

Guerra later stated that he believes the motive for the initial kidnapping attempt on 19-year-old Juan Ramirez was because he either owed Garcia money or he had stolen “some bodies” from Garcia.

“Again, these are human smugglers and they’re known to each other,” Guerra said.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Carlos Garcia Ruiz, Rosalba Sarahi Garcia Ruiz, Joselyn Gabriela Lomeli, Ashley Dinhora Evelin Orozco and Esmeralda Lee Orozco

Although Guerra wasn’t entirely clear on the involvement of the Orozco sisters, he did state that they admitted to their roles in the attempted kidnapping.

According to their probable cause affidavits, sheriff’s investigators interviewed 19-year-old Juan Ramirez, who is the attempted kidnapping victim, and said that he had been communicating with the sisters through Facebook.

“Juan planned to meet up with Esmer Orozco and Ashley Evelin to hook up,” the affidavit said. “He sent Esmer his address.”

The affidavit also states that Rosalba and Lomeli “further implicated” the Orozco sisters in the murder.

All four women are currently being held at the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center on $1.1 million in cash surety bonds.

Almarez is set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie K. Hampton Thursday morning for a detention hearing in Corpus Christi federal court.

Federal court documents state Escobar had his bond set to $10,000 and has been designated as a material witness in the federal criminal case.