Questions Remain a Year After Cartel Lawyer Shot Down in Southlake Town Square

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Police have made no arrests in the murder of a Mexican drug cartel lawyer in Southlake Town Square one year ago but the city's police chief said he his optimistic the case will one day be solved.

    Police have made no arrests in the murder of a Mexican drug cartel lawyer in Southlake Town Square one year ago but the city's police chief said he his optimistic the case will one day be solved.

    The lawyer, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, was ambushed last May and was shot once in the chest and nine times in the back, according to his autopsy. NBC 5 obtained Guerrero’s autopsy report and learned other key details in one of the most high-profile unsolved murders in North Texas.

    Nearly a year later, police have provided little information about the crime. But an investigation by NBC 5 reveals startling information about his secret life here and how he was killed.

    Among the new information:

    • An autopsy shows he had cocaine in his system and was shot 10 times. Two of the bullets pierced his heart.
    • Guerrero was living anonymously in Southlake with his wife and three children in a posh $1 million home he bought with cash in 2011. No public records were in his or his wife's name.
    • Guerrero was arrested in Miami Beach before moving to Southlake after his girlfriend claimed he had assaulted her. She told police he was "always aggressive" and "an important person in Mexico," according to a police report.
    • Guerrero formed at least two Texas corporations, including a gaming company using his own name. One expert speculated the companies may have been used to launder money.
    • The murder came less than one month after the slaying of another attorney in Guerrero's hometown in Mexico. The crimes appear related and both lawyers were involved with casinos, according to a Mexican news report.

    The gunmen who opened fire on him likely slipped into North Texas from Mexico and quickly fled back, according to law enforcement sources.

    "This was a game changer," said Fred Burton, a former federal counterterrorism agent and current vice president of intelligence for Stratfor, an Austin-based global intelligence company. "These kinds of events aren't supposed to happen in places like Southlake."
     
    NBC 5 previously reported that Guerrero was the longtime lawyer for Osiel Cardenas Guillen, leader of Mexico's powerful Gulf Cartel. Cardenas was arrested in Mexico in 2003 and transferred to the United States in 2007. In February 2010, he was sentenced in Houston to 25 years in prison, forfeited $50 million, and agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government, according to news reports.

    Guerrero also had been an informant for the U.S. government — specifically Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. It is unclear when he began his cooperation, whether HSI agents were fully aware of his activities while he lived in Texas, or if others may have learned of his role as a snitch.
     
    The Murder
     
    Guerrero's murder happened in front of the Victoria's Secret at 6:48 p.m. on May 22 at the upscale shopping center Southlake Town Square, which was crowded with shoppers.
     
    Police gave this account of what happened:

    Guerrero and his wife had just gone shopping. He was getting into the passenger's seat of a new-model Land Rover. His wife was driving.

    At least two men in a white Toyota Sequoia pulled up. A masked gunman jumped out of the passenger's side and opened fire on Guerrero with a 9 mm weapon. Seconds later, the killers sped west on Southlake Boulevard. His wife was unhurt.
     
    "This was something that was a targeted incident," Southlake Chief of Police Steve Mylett said.
     
    The getaway car was recovered and is being held as evidence, law enforcement sources said.
     
    Police also seized Guerrero’s Land Rover. The vehicle was registered to a P.O. Box in Plano in the name of his brother Armando, who lived in South Texas.

    The Autopsy
     
    Guerrero was shot 10 times — including nine times in the back, according to his autopsy, which was recently obtained from the Tarrant County medical examiner under the Texas open records law.
     
    He was declared dead 19 minutes later after arriving at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine.
     
    The single gunshot to his chest passed through "the soft tissue and muscle of the left chest wall," the autopsy said.
     
    He was shot four times on the right side of his back and five times on the left. Two of those bullets pierced his heart.
     
    The bullets were cased in "copper jackets," according to the autopsy.
     
    The report also noted that Guerrero’s urine tested positive for cocaine and diphenhydramine was found in his blood. Diphenhydramine is an ingredient in antihistamine commonly used to treat allergies. It also can be used as a recreational drug.
     
    Guerrero Moves to Southlake
     
    Tax records show the home Guerrero and his family were living in was purchased July 15, 2011, in the name of Ma G Alheli Dias Teixeira. 
     
    Public records searches show no record of anyone with that name.
     
    The five-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom house has a spacious living room, a wine room, a media room, a game room and a large swimming pool.
     
    A YouTube video showcasing the house before Guerrero bought it said the asking price was $1.35 million.
     
    The previous owner said the buyer paid cash.
     
    Realtor Sharon Hodnett, who sold the house, said she could not recall the sale.
     
    Nancy Carroll, whose company handled the title transfer, said she handles a large number of transactions and could not comment because of privacy laws.
     
    NBC 5 is not identifying Guerrero's wife, who declined a request for an interview, or their children, to protect their privacy.
     
    Arrest in Miami Beach
     
    It appears the family moved to Southlake from their ranch in China, Mexico, a suburb of Monterrey, which is Mexico’s third-largest city.
     
    Before the move, Guerrero also had been vacationing in Florida without his family. About three months before the Southlake house purchase, Guerrero was arrested in Miami Beach on charges of battery and domestic violence.
     
    His mug shot is the only public photo of him.
     
    According to a police report, officers were called to the luxurious Fountainebleau Hotel at about 3 a.m. on April 6, 2011.
     
    A 29-year-old woman told police the two were there on vacation and they had "been a couple in Mexico for six years."  She told officers that Guerrero accused her of flirting earlier with another man while they were eating dinner in a restaurant.
     
    She claimed Guerrero slapped her "with an open hand" on both sides of her face.
     
    He followed her when she ran from their hotel room to the lobby. Hotel security separated the two and called police.
     
    Officers said her face was still red when they arrived.

    According to the police report, the woman "is afraid of what the arrestee will do to her when they get back to Mexico. She says that he is an important person in Mexico and is always aggressive with her."
     
    Guerrero told officers he was not jealous and knocked her on top of her head to try to calm her down.
     
    The report noted that Guerrero did not want officers to notify the Mexican consulate that he had been arrested.
     
    Guerrero hired an attorney, pleaded not guilty, and the case was dropped the following month after he completed a class.

    Texas Companies Formed

    In December 2010, state records show Armando Guerrero formed a company called Siglo 21 Gaming Corp. It was registered to a P.O. Box in Hidalgo.

    The following month, Juan Guerrero was added as vice president.

    His name also appears as a director of a South Texas salvage and recycling company formed in 2011.

    The purpose of the companies isn’t clear and a search of the Internet turns up no website or other information.

    Burton, the intelligence analyst, said drug cartels can use such companies to launder money.

    "You have organizations making for the most part huge amounts of money in bulk cash,” he said. “The way that you easily can launder that kind of money is through cash businesses, whether it be casinos, race horses — that kind of cash exchange."

    Murder in Mexico

    Three weeks before Guerrero’s murder, another attorney with drug cartel ties was killed execution-style in Guerrero’s hometown of Monterrey.

    On April 26, 2013, Eliseo Martinez Elizondo, was found dead along a street, according to the newspaper Reporte Indigo.

    Martinez also was a U.S. government informant and both lawyers were involved with Mexican casinos, the newspaper reported.

    Records also show Martinez, like Guerrero, had formed several corporations in South Texas in recent years.

    Investigators in Texas declined to comment on any possible connection between the two cases.

    Motive for Murder

    Whatever the motive for Guerrero’s murder, Mylett said Guerrero was clearly targeted.

    "This was well planned out and executed in a well-coordinated effort,” he said.

    Mylett said he is confident the killers will be caught.

    "This investigation continues to be our top priority,” he said. “We have our best people assigned to the case.”

    Burton said there are several reasons powerful people may have wanted Guerrero dead.

    "The reason a person is hit is the cartel or the person who ordered this has lost money, is owed money, or has nailed him because he is a snitch,” Burton said. "Whoever killed him put in a lot of time and effort into finding him, and they certainly put in an ‘A’ team to target him.”