The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 7, 2012

Police: Carthage murder victim’s throat cut with machete

By Jeff Lehr

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Mario Gonzalez was struck three times in the back of the neck with a machete that was recovered at the scene of his slaying, according to a probable-cause affidavit that became available Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The affidavit was filed with the charging over the weekend of 45-year-old Juan Mendoza with second-degree murder in the killing of Gonzalez, 43, whose body was discovered April 25 near a camp along the banks of Spring River on the north side of Carthage.

The affidavit alleges that Mendoza killed Gonzalez by cutting the victim’s throat with a machete about 7 a.m. on April 24.

The defendant, who was arrested Friday, admitted that a machete found at the scene belonged to him, the affidavit states. Crime lab technicians with the Missouri State Highway Patrol have confirmed the presence of human blood on the weapon, the affidavit states.

An autopsy performed in Columbia by the Boone County medical examiner determined that Gonzalez died of injuries to his neck. The affidavit states that the autopsy revealed that he had been struck with the weapon three times in the back of the neck. The medical examiner found no defensive wounds on the victim or any other signs of a struggle preceding the fatal blows.

Although Mendoza admitted that the machete belonged to him, he has not admitted killing Gonzalez or having any sort of struggle with him, Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan told the Globe on Monday. Dagnan declined to discuss whether Mendoza acknowledged having any dispute with Gonzalez or what investigators believe took place between the two men before the slaying.

The affidavit states that a third man, Teodoro Paxtor-Ramos, told investigators that Gonzalez and Mendoza were the only ones in the area of the camp when he left on April 24. When he returned a short time later, Gonzalez was dead and Mendoza was gone, Paxtor-Ramos told police.

Dagnan said investigators are trying to determine if there were any eyewitnesses to the crime. The police chief said the area in question along the river has been somewhat mischaracterized as a “homeless camp.” He said almost all the people who have frequented the camp are not homeless and have addresses where they stay.

The defendant in the murder is not the same Juan Mendoza who was involved in the investigation of the Eddie Salazar murder case from two years ago, according to police. At one point during the investigation of the purported abduction of the Salazar baby, the father told investigators that he had reason to believe that a man named Juan Mendoza may have taken the boy. Police located the Juan Mendoza in question and cleared him of any involvement in the crime.

Eddie Salazar Sr. was sentenced last week to life in prison on a conviction for second-degree murder in the death of his son.

Dagnan said the defendant in the Gonzalez murder is not the same man.

“This Juan Mendoza has only been in the Carthage area for a short time — a few months,” Dagnan said. “So (he is) not from the area and (is) no relation.”

No struggle

AN AUTOPSY on Mario Gonzalez found no signs of struggle, suggesting that he may not have seen the fatal blows coming.