Friday, April 4, 2014



Note: Local story, no spillover here or there. For sure.

Man killed in Sonora was witness in Arizona home invasion
Eduardo Hernandez is facing eight felony charges stemming from an alleged home invasion on Jan. 25.
Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 8:19 am | Updated: 9:06 am, Fri Apr 4, 2014.
By Jonathan Clark
Nogales International

A local man who was shot and killed in Nogales, Sonora last month was the alleged victim of a home invasion in late January in Nogales, Ariz. in which two men reportedly assaulted him with a handgun and machete while accusing him of informing police about a drug load.

Antonio Miguel Coronado, 22, was found shortly after noon on March 16 sprawled in a street in Nogales, Sonora alongside his brother, 20-year-old Adrian Alejandro Coronado. Both men had been shot dead, the Sonora State Police said.

The brazen killings of the Coronados, former students at Nogales High School who had had only minor scrapes with the law, puzzled many in the local community. The Sonoran police did not suggest a possible motive and have offered no further information about the case since releasing a pair of news bulletins on March 16 and 17.

Now, through information gleaned from court documents and sources with knowledge of a separate criminal case in Arizona, the NI has learned that Antonio Coronado was the alleged target of a home invasion on Jan. 25 that may have been due to mistaken identity or erroneous information. What's more, he and another witness to the crime had allegedly been badgered in the days leading up to the murders to stop cooperating with law enforcement.

The Nogales Police Department declined to release its report of the Jan. 25 incident, citing the ongoing investigation. But other court documents in which the victims are identified only by descriptive terms or initials (law enforcement sources confirmed that the victim identified as "A.C." is Antonio Coronado) allege that two men burst into a Nogales home and held Coronado and a woman hostage. Two children were reportedly present as well.

During the alleged kidnapping, the documents say, 25-year-old Eduardo Hernandez of Nogales and another unidentified suspect held the victims at gunpoint and threatened to kill Coronado for snitching.
According to a narrative written by Nogales Police Det. David Batt on Hernandez's jail booking form, as Hernandez interrogated Coronado, his accomplice cut Coronado on the leg with a machete. An eight-count charging document at Santa Cruz County Superior Court also accuses Hernandez of hitting Coronado on the head with a firearm.

Coronado denied the allegations of snitching, and shortly after the home invasion, Hernandez reportedly called to say he had mistakenly accused him. Even so, the victims gave statements to police and Hernandez was arrested on Jan. 29 in Nogales on 11 felony charges. Three of the charges were later dropped, and Hernandez currently stands accused at Santa Cruz County Superior Court of one count of burglary, two counts of kidnapping and five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Hernandez was released from custody on Feb. 14 after posting a $20,000 cash bond. At that point, police allege, he began a campaign to persuade Coronado and the female adult victim to not testify against him. The victims were allegedly contacted on Feb. 22, March 3 and March 5, and then again on March 14, two days before Coronado was murdered. According to another booking document, people acting on Hernandez's behalf offered the witnesses "money, cars and more" to back off the allegations.

In the early afternoon of March 16, Coronado and his brother Adrian were found dead on a street approximately one mile south of the U.S-Mexico border. Adrian was lying between two cars – a black Dodge Charger with Arizona plates and a white Buick sedan with Sonora plates – that appeared to have collided head-on. Antonio was next to the Buick. The Sonora State Police said investigators recovered "various" shell casings at the scene from bullets fired from a handgun.

The Coronado brothers appeared to be unlikely candidates for a gangland-style hit. Neither of their names show up in a federal criminal court database, and neither appear to have any convictions at a state superior court. In 2011, Antonio was found guilty at Nogales Municipal Court of shoplifting, and in 2013 he was convicted at Nogales Justice Court of a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge – a conviction that a judge later set aside. Adrian's only conviction came at City of Maricopa traffic court, where he was found guilty of driving without a valid license, online records show.

On the night after the Coronados were killed, Hernandez was booked back into the county jail on a charge that he had obstructed a criminal investigation. An amended complaint filed April 2 at Nogales Justice Court accuses him of four counts of the Class 5 felony offense – one each for the alleged victim-influencing incidents on Feb. 22, March 3, March 5 and March 14. His bond was initially set at $200,000, and then dropped to $100,000 on March 19. He remains in custody.

Sources with knowledge of the case say that Antonio Coronado may have been lured into Mexico on the day of the murders by a woman who was familiar to him. Adrian Coronado may have simply made the unwitting mistake of giving his brother a ride to an ambush. And in the days after their murders, those sources say, the woman who allegedly lured Antonio to the ambush arrived at a Nogales port of entry to say that she had been forced into doing it.

After the NI provided U.S. Customs and Border Protection with a last name and potential dates that the woman might have come to the port, the agency issued the following statement: "On March 18, a female 41-year-old U.S. citizen applied for entry into the United States at the Nogales Port of Entry. At the time of her inspection, the woman made allegations of possible criminal activity in Mexico and that she was victimized. CBP immediately notified the Mexican Consulate and the Nogales Police Department who took over the case. At this time no further information is available."

Lt. Carlos Jimenez, spokesman for NPD, said he recognized the incident, though he suggested the woman had come to the port on March 19. However, he declined to comment on the nature of her allegations and their possible connection to the Coronado murders.
"We do have a current active investigation that may possibly tie into the homicides that occurred in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, but cannot elaborate any further being that it is currently active," Jimenez said in an emailed statement.

Deputy County Attorney Liliana Ortega, the lead prosecutor in the home invasion case against Hernandez, said she was aware that Antonio Coronado had been murdered, but declined to connect Hernandez to his death. Asked if she had expected Coronado to be a cooperating witness against Hernandez, she said: "Yes."
As for the second suspect who allegedly aided Hernandez in the home invasion, Ortega said: "We're still investigating – we don't have a suspect in custody."

The woman witness against Hernandez has reportedly gone into hiding.

'Nothing to do with it'
Hernandez's lawyer Matthew Davidson said he had heard that one of his client's alleged victims had been killed, but denied Hernandez's involvement.
"I had heard that, I don't know the circumstances surrounding that, but my client has nothing to do with it, period," Davidson said of the murder.
Asked if investigators had tried to talk to Hernandez about the Coronado kilings, he said: "No one, either police or a county attorney, has approached me to discuss that issue with him." Davidson said he doesn't want to try the kidnap-assault case in the media, but noted that Hernandez "has 100-percent declared himself not guilty and he intends to fight those charges."

The charges of obstructing a criminal investigation are still pending a preliminary hearing at Nogales Justice Court. Davidson said he's awaiting more disclosure from the state that would explain the specific nature of the allegations.
"We're looking forward to getting the information and piecing this thing together about what they're saying happened," he said, while also expressing skepticism that a defendant who was on intensive probation supervision at the time could have been out cajoling witnesses.

In an apparently unrelated case, the County Attorney's Office charged Hernandez on March 17 with two DUI offenses and a drug possession charge stemming from an alleged incident on Feb. 2, 2013. The DUI charges were dismissed after Davidson raised a one-year statute of limitations issue, and Hernandez is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on the drug charge on April 9.

More Coverage
Victims in Nogales, Sonora double murder were brothers who attended NHS


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