Investigators say Huntsville woman and granddaughter were killed after drug run

Authorities believe two men distrusted Oralia Mendoza and decided to kill her and her granddaughter, Mariah Lopez.

Posted: Jul 12, 2018 3:23 PM
Updated: Jul 12, 2018 5:52 PM

Two men murdered a Huntsville woman and her granddaughter because one of them didn't trust the grandmother after a drug-smuggling trip from Georgia to Alabama, authorities testified in court Thursday.

In a preliminary hearing for Yoni Aguilar, 26, investigators said they believe he and Israel Gonzalez Palomino, 34, had been moving drugs along with Oralia Mendoza, and another woman.

Mendoza, 49, and her granddaughter, Mariah Lopez, 13, were found dead in Owens Cross Roads. Lopez's remains were found June 7 on Lemley Drive. Mendoza's remains were found about a week later in Moon Cemetery, not far from where Lopez was found.

Aguilar and Palomino are both charged with capital murder.

A Madison County Sheriff's Office investigator testified in court Thursday morning that Aguilar and Mendoza were dating and lived together with Mariah in a home on Pinedale Drive. Mendoza had also dated Palomino in the past, they said.

Sometime in early June, investigators said Aguilar, Palomino, Mendoza and a fourth woman traveled to Norcross, Ga., to pick up a quarter of a kilogram of methamphetamine and bring it back to Huntsville. Investigators said they believe Mendoza and the woman were members of the Mexico-based Sinaloa cartel and were moving the drugs for the criminal organization.

Sometime after returning from the Georgia drug run, investigators said Palomino discovered Mendoza had removed the SIM card from her phone. He also found a text message sent to an unknown woman during the Georgia drug run, investigators said. In that text, Mendoza asked the woman to pick up her granddaughter from Palomino's wife because she was afraid for their lives, they said.

Palomino and Aguilar woke Mendoza and Lopez up during the night and told them they were going somewhere safe, investigators said. When they reached Moon Cemetery in Owens Cross Roads, Mendoza and Palomino got out of the car and began arguing, according to testimony. Palomino then stabbed Mendoza and they left her body there, investigators said.

Investigators testified that Aguilar told them he and Palomino got Lopez out of the car on Lemley Drive, and Palomino showed him how to decapitate Lopez. They killed her and left her body there and then went to clean the car, authorities said.

Investigators said they found two knives they believe were used in the murders. One was under Palomino's mattress, they said; the other was under Aguilar's.

Palomino's preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month.

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