Sheriff Carl returns to tell us about when two factions of the same gang begin to clash. The members are forced to pick sides and, for one of them, it has deadly consequences revealing a labyrinth of alliances and codes of conduct with lethal consequences.
Special Guest: Sheriff Carl
Sheriff Carl began his career in law enforcement in 1991 after he was honorably discharged from the Air Force. He started out as a patrol officer and in 2005 he was promoted to detective. The jurisdiction he served was so small he was often the only detective at his agency. Over the course of his career Sheriff, Carl has investigated everything from property crimes to homicides. In 2015 he graduated from the FBI National Academy and in 2016 he was named Lawman of the Year by the Sheriff’s Association in his state.
Carl: [00:00:02] At first, we had no idea who this guy was. I mean, he’s covered in prison-style tattoos. With one of them missing, your mind first goes, “Okay, well, this is retribution. This is a gang hit. But who is he?”
Yeardley: [00:00:18] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So, I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:00:44] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:45] And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:00:48] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant in his police department.
Dave [00:00:55] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades’ experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:10] So, we ask you to join us in protecting their true identities as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley [00:01:25] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:31] Good afternoon. It’s afternoon now.
Yeardley: [00:01:32] [laughs] Good afternoon. And we have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:36] Hello, everyone.
Yeardley: [00:01:37] Hello. And we are so pleased to welcome back Sheriff Carl.
Carl: [00:01:42] It’s good to be back.
Yeardley: [00:01:44] Thank you for coming. Carl, you have a really interesting case for us today. But actually, before we get into the nitty-gritty of that, I want to remind our listeners about your jurisdiction, because I remember when you sat down with us before and gave us a case we called Collateral, you said your county is roughly 928 square miles which, by the way, is almost the size of the state of Rhode Island, and you only have about a dozen deputies patrolling that whole area.
Carl: [00:02:16] That’s right.
Yeardley: [00:02:17] It’s crazy, Carl. The case you’re bringing us today is about a gangland murder. I have to confess, the city slicker that I am, I would not have thought that you would have gang-related crime in such a rural jurisdiction.
Carl: [00:02:34] They pop up like weeds.
Yeardley: [00:02:35] I was surprised.
Dan: [00:02:36] You’re dealing with a couple factors here. One is you have large criminal organizations, gangs that are from bigger cities, and sometimes to further their interests, drug trade, things like that, they will push people out into these rural areas. The other side of that is we have a prison system that collects people from all over the state. These potential gang members clique up while they’re in the joint for protection usually. Once they get paroled or they get released, they go back to their small towns and they start up their own chapter.
Yeardley: [00:03:16] I see. Okay.
Dan: [00:03:17] Just taking a little further, sometimes you have these prison gangs that if you have a group of guys from a small area–
Yeardley: [00:03:17] Like a small town?
Dan: [00:03:26] Yeah, like my town, for instance. We had guys from our small town that went up to the state prison, and they started their own gang just because they were familiar with each other and it was a geographical thing. So, once they got out, they came back to our town. As far as gangs go, where I’m from, they were the top of the heap.
Yeardley: [00:03:49] Just because now they were back in their hometown.
Dan: [00:03:52] They were back in their hometown. They were violent. They were ruthless. And they were organized.
Yeardley: [00:03:57] That’s so interesting. That’s why I love this podcast, because every time we sit down together, I learn something new. Okay, Carl, tell us how this case came to you?
Carl: [00:04:10] Absolutely. There was a warring faction between two prominent street-level gangs. These gangs would go on what they would call ‘missions’ or ‘putting in work’, and there was a lot of violence in the area. As a result, one of the major gangs ended up splitting into two factions. This was at the prison level, the street gang culture, a lot of it is prison based and a lot of the orders do come from prison to the streets. The new faction had found out that one of the higher-ranking members, it was what we’d say the “officer rank,” like a lieutenant, was giving information to a local law enforcement agency about the new faction, which is a huge no-no in the gang world.
Dave: [00:05:00] Is he a paid snitch?
Carl: [00:05:01] Yes, he is a paid snitch.
Yeardley: [00:05:03] Who is paying him?
Dave: [00:05:05] Paid informants get money from whichever law enforcement agency that they are working with. It could be 20 bucks, “Get some gas for your car.” It depends on the type of information you’re giving and the kind of case that you’re working on. It’s kind of like a reward, like when you have the Crime Stoppers tips that say “Reward for information leading to the arrest of this person.” So, it’s kind of like that. In our world, I remember in our detective bureau, at our agency, we had a little petty cash set aside. You have to write down who is paid by whom, which detective, case number, and what it’s for, basically. There’s a ledger that tracks all that.
Yeardley: [00:05:52] What’s the most you’ve ever paid out to an informant?
Dave: [00:05:57] Um, I personally, I didn’t have a whole lot of informants on the sex abuse side of the world. [Yeardley chuckles] The biggest one I’ve ever heard of was a couple hundred dollars.
Yeardley: [00:06:08] Interesting. Okay. Carl, are these gangs running drugs? Is it sex trafficking? Is it anything and everything?
Carl: [00:06:17] This particular gang was known more for weapons trafficking, drug sales, and prostitution.
Yeardley: [00:06:23] Got it.
Carl: [00:06:24] It was right around November, December. I had been with the sheriff maybe six months. I had come from a large agency, went to work here, there was only five of us. I get a call, we got a body in a creek. At first, I’m thinking, “Is this an accidental? Is this something that they stumbled upon? Is it natural? Is it a homeless guy that wandered off?” We didn’t know. So, I went out there. The first thing I noticed there was, what I recognized to be common gang identifiers.
Yeardley: [00:06:56] Like?
Carl: [00:06:58] The person was wearing gang-specific clothing, a certain color of jacket with a certain type of logo. He had some very, very distinct tattoos, and one of which was cut off.
Dave: [00:07:13] Like, they just peel the skin, cut it out?
Carl: [00:07:15] Yeah, it was literally carved off of him.
Dave: [00:07:17] And this creek, is this adjacent to a road? Or, would it take some work to get this body to where it comes to rest?
Carl: [00:07:23] Well, it was adjacent to a road next to a bridge, but this was a gravel road. This was a very remote area in the county. You wouldn’t expect anyone out there at all. There was a house that was nearby. As we’re out looking at this body, we get a report of a burglary that occurred just right down the road.
Yeardley: [00:07:47] Separate from this dead body in the creek?
Carl: [00:07:50] Yes. What we had found out is that the Joneses, who lived in the house right down the road, come home in the morning, they find that their front door has been kicked open, and almost all their possessions are gone out of the house.
Yeardley: [00:08:03] That’s a bad day.
Carl: [00:08:05] Yeah, it wasn’t a good one. Well, what they were thinking was, “We’re going to walk down the road, maybe some of this stuff fell out, and we can kind of get an idea of which way they went.” Well, come to find out, they initially discovered our body and had went to the house to call 911 and get law enforcement coming out there. Well, between that time and the time they actually made the phone call, another person found the body and called 911. So, we had a lot of people calling in off of this otherwise, very remote area.
Dave: [00:08:40] They’re thinking they’re sneaky. “Let’s hide the body out in this rural area,” and already–[chuckles]
Dave: [00:08:46] Two people have seen this body already. So, not a great dump site.
Carl: [00:08:49] Yeah, they really didn’t think this one through. We did find out that there was some property from the house, mostly pillow sheets and things like that.
Yeardley: [00:08:58] So, the Joneses are thinking, if they can find some of their stuff along the road, then they’ll know which direction the bad guys went?
Carl: [00:09:06] Yep.
Yeardley: [00:09:08] Did that actually turn out to be a good plan?
Carl: [00:09:09] Well, they had made it to the bridge, but whenever they looked over the bridge and they saw the body, they realized, “Hey, isn’t that our bedsheet right there?” [chuckles] So, I went down and I did a preliminary examination. I’ve been on these death scenes before, but this is one where I knew that I was pretty much on my own. Even though I did have some resources that were going to become available to me, I knew that I really needed to get this right whenever I first got there.
Yeardley: [00:09:40] Is this because your agency is so small?
Carl: [00:09:42] Yes. Let’s just say I settled down for a long day.[chuckles]
Carl: [00:09:46] I went down and I noticed that he had been stabbed many times. His head was almost severed. He had his throat cut, but it cut him really, really deep. So, whoever did this was quite strong. He was no slouch himself. He was a little over maybe six-foot–
Yeardley: [00:10:04] The victim was?
Carl: [00:10:05] Yes. He was a pretty good-sized guy himself. For somebody to be able to manhandle him, was going to be quite a good-sized individual.
Yeardley: [00:10:14] How old was the victim?
Carl: [00:10:15] He was in his late 30s.
Yeardley: [00:10:17] Does he have a name?
Carl: [00:10:19] Yes, his name was Jesse. Jesse was a ranking member of the old faction of the street gang. From what I understand, he was caught a few times, and he decided to roll over. But of course, when a person rolls over, they don’t necessarily give up the information completely. They give up what they want you to know. At this time, they were having a conflict between the new faction and the old faction, so what he decided to give up was the new faction, which was against the rules, and he was going to have to pay a price.
Yeardley: [00:10:53] When you say give up, he was tattling on the new faction, Jesse was?
Carl: [00:10:57] Yes.
Dan: [00:10:59] He’s giving information on the new faction to law enforcement investigator, is that put in a report or is he considered a CI?
Carl: [00:11:09] He was a CI.
Yeardley: [00:11:10] What’s a CI?
Carl: [00:11:11] CI is a confidential informant. This is a person that for whatever reason, whether it’s that they’re caught doing something wrong, or some moral obligation that they feel that they must give up information, they are cooperating with the law enforcement investigator on an ongoing investigation.
Dave: [00:11:30] You’ll even have certain drug dealers who don’t like the competition will strategically seek out a relationship with law enforcement to eliminate their competition as business. “Go arrest them. They’re moving all kinds of weight. Here’s where they’re doing it. This is the guy you want to look for. This is what he drives.” And that way, his business gets revived because there’s no more competition.
Yeardley: [00:11:52] Surely, you guys are on to that strategy.
Dave: [00:11:54] Oh, absolutely. But a bird in the hand worth two in the bush, is that how that goes?
Yeardley: [00:12:00] Yes, that is how that goes.
Dave: [00:12:01] Every CI has some sort of agenda. It’s usually selfish.
Dan: [00:12:05] And they usually give up the bare minimum that’s going to get them off of charges or whatever. They’re never going to give you more than you really need.
Carl: [00:12:12] That’s right. They’re always going to hold something back. Like you said, it is a bird in the hand, and we take that because there’s going to be someone that’s going to come along that’s going to narc on them too. [chuckles] So, they will come back around. It’s just a matter of who’s giving what information. Sometimes, you just take what you can get.
Yeardley: [00:12:29] Right, that makes sense. You now know that Jesse, the dead body, in the creek who’s been stabbed multiple times and has one of his tattoos literally sliced off of him, is a member of the old faction of the street gang and snitching on the new faction?
Carl: [00:12:46] That’s right.
Dave: [00:12:47] How hard was it ID him?
Carl: [00:12:49] Well, at first, we had no idea who this guy was. He’s covered in prison-style tattoos. With one of them missing, your mind first goes, “Okay, well, this is retribution. This is a gang hit. But who is he?” So, once again, we just have to kind of sit and wait. Fortunately, I had a pretty good sizeable crime scene. He was at the bottom of a creek, we had to logistically get him out. So, it was a challenging thing nonetheless. Of course, by this time, we start getting calls from different family members. In particular, Jesse’s girlfriend. She’s saying, “Jesse never came home last night.”
Yeardley: [00:13:29] This is ultimately how you ID him?
Carl: [00:13:30] Yes, that’s how we will identify him. “A couple of guys came by last night, they left, and he never came home.”
Yeardley: [00:13:36] A couple of guys came by and took Jesse with them, and he never came home?
Carl: [00:13:39] Yes. She’s able to provide us with some ID that he had, some old pictures, some other old fake IDs that he had, and we were able to get a tentative ID on this guy. She became very interesting to us. We wanted to know these other guys, who were they and why did they come by? And that’s where the story of this would pick up.
Yeardley: [00:14:15] Jesse’s girlfriend has told you that the night he was murdered, he was picked up by two guys. Does it take you a long time to find those two guys?
Carl: [00:14:24] No. The other folks that were involved here, Benny and Acevedo, were two other members of this street gang.
Yeardley: [00:14:32] Old or new faction?
Carl: [00:14:34] Well, as it would turnout, Benny was a member of the new faction. He was 18 years old, and Acevedo was a member of the old faction, the same as Jesse. He was a sergeant, so he was actually directly under Jesse. We were able to get from Jesse’s girlfriend that Acevedo was there.
Yeardley: [00:15:00] It was one of the ones who came by and picked him up?
Carl: [00:15:02] Yes. And she knew Acevedo because her and Jesse, of course, being that they were high-ranking members, would spend a lot of time together, but she didn’t know who the other guy was. With our ID, we take Jesse up to the medical examiner’s office. At the same time, trying to process the scene. Now, we have a really complicated scene here. First of all, we have this area where this guy has been found, but now we have property that’s down there with him that is directly linked to the burglary that’s just down the street. What exactly is that particular connection? And we do.
[00:15:39] We find out that there was a connection, that this was a burglary job. This was work that they were supposed to do. We were going to have to figure out a way to get all this information. First of all, we had to locate Acevedo because no one knew where he was. The second thing that we needed to do was find out how did they do it? And then, third, who killed Jesse, and why? This was going to take a while. The first thing we did is that we talked to Jesse’s girlfriend. Jesse’s girlfriend says that he came by late in the night, dropped off some stuff, and said, “I’ve got to go.” We took a look at the stuff that he dropped off, which happened to be proceeds from the burglary down the road.
Dave: [00:16:22] At the Jones’ house.
Carl: [00:16:23] Yes. So, now we’re able to tie Jesse at least to this burglary. We found out that Acevedo was with him, so we had to figure out where Acevedo lived. He didn’t live anywhere. He just kind of went from house to house, just recently released from prison. We did find that there was a family member that he was staying with. So, we went and scooped him up and brought him in. We wanted to know exactly what’s going on. Of course, he didn’t know anything. But he was with this other guy that he says he didn’t know his name, but come to find out that once we got into it, yes, he knew exactly who he was. And yes, he knew exactly what happened to Jesse.
Yeardley: [00:17:06] How old is Acevedo?
Carl: [00:17:07] Acevedo is near 40.
Yeardley: [00:17:09] Okay, so he’s closer to Jesse’s age.
Carl: [00:17:12] Yes. What we find out is that the night before, there was a car that was rented from a car leasing place.
Yeardley: [00:17:18] They actually went through the usual channels and leased it properly?
Carl: [00:17:22] Well, actually, Benny’s mom leased the car. So, Benny is going to be the new faction person from the street gang.
Yeardley: [00:17:32] He’s the third party in this robbery.
Carl: [00:17:34] Yeah, he is a third party. He is yet to have been identified, but we did figure out the car. So once we tracked the car back, we were able to go back and see who leased the vehicle, which would be Benny’s mom. Of course, after tracking Benny’s mom down, Benny’s mom had no idea what was going on.
Yeardley: [00:17:54] She really didn’t?
Carl: [00:17:56] Actually, she truly didn’t. What had happened is that Benny took the car, picked up Acevedo. They went over to meet Jesse and said, “We have work to do,” which meant that they had to go do a job. The job in this case was going to be a burglary, but the burglary was just a coverup for what the real job was.
Yeardley: [00:18:15] What was the real job?
Carl: [00:18:17] It was discovered that Jesse was giving up information. Acevedo was to supervise Benny and help him kill Jesse.
Dave: [00:18:30] But they’ve got to have a plan to get Jesse in the car. Jesse’s not just going to hop in the car and go, “Hey, let’s go to where you guys are going to kill me.” “We’ve got a job to do. You’re going with us.” And then, that gets him out to this area where they need him. I’m curious. Jesse’s working with law enforcement, and they discovered, obviously. Is he working with your agency? Or is he working with another agency that is in the local area?
Carl: [00:18:52] Yeah, Jesse’s working with a neighboring agency. After we are able to identify him and get a tentative ID, then we find out his backstory and what he’s really doing with them. Of course, it’s just as you said, they’re giving up limited information. They’re just going to minimize what it is that they’re actually doing, and that’s what they did in this case.
Yeardley: [00:19:12] You’re talking about that these informants basically say as little as possible.
Carl: [00:19:16] Absolutely. We do get information, we find the car. Now by this time, I am feeling like I am pretty much drinking water through a firehose. I mean it’s quite busy. I asked my sheriff, I said, “What is it that you expect me to do here?” And he says, “I expect you to find the killer. That’s what I expect you to do.”
Yeardley: [00:19:35] [laughs] You said earlier that you found Acevedo.
Carl: [00:19:40] That’s right. The first person we pick up is Acevedo, we drag him in. He’s not forthcoming with information, but he’s in possession of some of the burglary property.
Yeardley: [00:19:50] Oops.
Carl: [00:19:51] Yeah, oops. We start holding that against him. It’s positively ID’d property. He’s on parole, so he’s already in trouble and he knows it. He gives up Benny. Benny’s this young kid. He’s trying to become a gang member. But he hasn’t done the proper work yet, which would be murder.
Yeardley: [00:20:12] I see. Acevedo had just gotten out of prison. Do you know what he had been in prison for before?
Carl: [00:20:18] Murder.
Yeardley: [00:20:18] Oh-kay.
Carl: [00:20:19] [chuckles]
Dave: [00:20:20] Are you telling me that prison didn’t rehabilitate him?
Carl: You know, it’s not 100%.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:20:27] I know you guys often refer to it as criminal college. If you’re not going to be rehabilitated there, you’re probably going to sharpen the skills that got you in there in the first place.
Dave: [00:20:35] And Acevedo comes out better connected. He’s with all the shot callers or whatever, the people giving orders, now he’s got a direct line to them.
Yeardley: [00:20:44] I’m surprised that if Acevedo was in prison for murder previously, that he’s out at all.
Carl: [00:20:51] Well, he went in as a kid. Now, he’s in his 40s.
Yeardley: [00:20:54] [gasps]. So, he had just been serving a really long sentence, and he’d served it. And now, he was out.
Carl: [00:20:59] Right.
Yeardley: [00:21:00] I see.
Carl: [00:21:00] He goes in as a recruit, I guess you would say, and he comes out as a sergeant.
Yeardley: [00:21:05] Of his gang.
Carl: [00:21:06] Yes, he has progressed well within the ranks of that street gang.
Yeardley: [00:21:09] Why does he give Benny up? Isn’t that taboo? Isn’t that the last thing you ever want to do?
Carl: [00:21:15] Well, it’s because he wasn’t going to go back for another murder. I don’t know if he didn’t understand the law or if he assumed that because he had committed another felony, this could be considered as capital murder, which means he could get the death penalty. Also, Acevedo did have residual loyalty to the old faction. The new faction, they were considered young and disrespectful. So, the old faction just really did not care much for him. However, orders are orders. Acevedo was told that this old faction lieutenant was going to be X-ed out, which is what they called it. That’s whenever the higher-ranking gang member says that he’s no longer allowed to live. They will issue out in order for him to be killed. The new faction member, if he wants to become a member, needs to kill him.
Yeardley: [00:22:07] I get it. If this street gang, that’s the old faction, is pretty well entrenched and seems to have some pretty organized ranks, why would a new faction ever spring from it?
Carl: [00:22:20] As we would find out later, it was a matter of the way they did business. The old faction was more into prostitution and cocaine-level drugs. The new faction was more into violence and hits. Which from the old-fashioned perspective, it’s bad, it draws attention to you. While the new faction wanted to go to war, the old faction wanted to make money.
Dave: [00:22:46] Conflicting business strategies.
Yeardley: [00:22:48] Both bad, but business is business, I guess?
Dave: [00:22:51] Right. Benny, this is his final exam.
Yeardley: [00:22:54] Right. Okay, this is fascinating.
Carl: [00:22:58] We find out who Benny is. We find out that Benny’s mom had rented a car. So, we go get the car. It’s in beautiful shape. There’s not a spot on it, which made us immediately suspicious. Who rents a car and takes it back absolutely spotless?
Yeardley: [00:23:15] Did she rent the car because she needed the car or she rented the car for Benny?
Carl: [00:23:19] She rented the car because she needed it. Benny just took it. So, the first thing we do is we bring out a team. They luminol the inside of the vehicle.
Yeardley: [00:23:29] Luminol?
Carl: [00:23:29] Luminol is a reactant to blood.
Dan: [00:23:32] Yeah. You know when you see CSI, you watch CSI and you see they spray the little stuff on the blood and it lights up blue?
Yeardley: [00:23:41] Yeah.
Dan: [00:23:41] That’s what he’s talking about.
Yeardley: [00:23:42] Oh, right.
Carl: [00:23:43] That’s right. In this case, the crime scene folks luminoled the inside of the car and we didn’t see a thing, just a little bit of blood on the steering wheel and on the seatbelt. As they moved through the car, they got to the trunk and the trunk lit up like a Christmas tree. So, now my body site where I’m finding Jesse, now I’m looking at this as a dump site. Where was Jesse killed? This starts bringing the attention of the agency that had him as a snitch. Now, they’re concerned for their other snitches. So, we’re starting to get a lot of extra help, a lot of extra eyes. We found out that Benny worked for a paint company. They did construction painting. So, we went out there. Sure enough, there he was on the job. We bring him in, and it’s just myself and the ranger. We say, “Benny, you know why we’re here.” And he just kind of look, he says, “Yeah, I know.” The next question was actually pretty simple. “So, why’d you do it?” He goes, “I had to.”
Yeardley: [00:24:53] It was my initiation.
Carl: [00:24:54] Yeah. I honestly never had a confession that quick. That opened the dialogue and we just started talking about it.
Carl: [00:25:12] What Benny confessed to, was that on the night of the burglary, him and Acevedo were given instructions to take Jesse out and kill him because he is a snitch and he brought discredit on the street gang. Acevedo is the old faction supervisor. This killing must be supervised by a member of the old faction, because the order came from the old faction. The killing had to be done by a member of the new faction. That was Benny’s initiation into the street gang.
Yeardley: [00:25:45] Even though the old faction and the new faction have very different views on how business should be conducted, one to make money, one to create war, they’re still trying to figure out ways to work together? That’s unusually collaborative.
Dave: [00:25:58] Right. The CEO’s in prison making decisions. If you want to be a part of his gang, then you’re going to take the marching orders, and you’re going to get the mission done.
Yeardley: [00:26:07] If they aren’t necessarily aligned, if they actually think it’s necessary that there be two separate factions, why does the new faction comply with orders from the old faction?
Carl: [00:26:17] Well, that’s a very good question. When it comes to gangs, there is a pecking order. While they may want different factions to be involved in different ways of doing business, there’s still the– and believe it or not, it’s called the constitution of that gang, and they must abide by it. Even if they don’t like it and they may want to war against it, if the order comes in that they must do this, then there’s no room for question. It’s an order, you’ve got to do it. Because if not, the result is you’re the next one on the list.
Yeardley: [00:26:50] I see. I’m so surprised that Benny is like, “Yeah, I know why you’re here. I’m going to tell you a bunch of stuff,” as shocking to me.
Carl: [00:26:57] Well, by this time, he knows that we have the car.
Yeardley: [00:27:00] Right. The one his mom rented.
Carl: [00:27:02] Yes. By this time, he knows that we found blood in the car. Remember, this is his initiation. If he tries to fight it, and let’s just say, for instance, we could not prove our case, then that’s not confirmation that he actually killed him.
Yeardley: [00:27:15] Even though Acevedo was there to see it.
Carl: [00:27:17] Acevedo is the backup. He’s there in the event that we can’t prove our case.
Yeardley: [00:27:21] I see.
Dan: [00:27:22] Acevedo has got a problem though if he goes back to prison because he snitched out Benny.
Yeardley: [00:27:26] He sure did.
Dan: [00:27:27] Which is kind of ironic because they killed Jesse because he was a snitch.
Yeardley: [00:27:31] Seems like a double standard.
Dan: [00:27:33] How did Acevedo and Benny find out or whoever’s calling the shots in the prison know that Jesse was giving info to law enforcement?
Carl: [00:27:41] We never did find out. We don’t know. There was a leak, but we don’t know where it came from.
Dan: [00:27:46] Right. So, Jesse had a girlfriend who originally reports him missing. She’s got to have an inkling as to what Jessie is up to.
Carl: [00:27:57] Well, that’s where we suspect the leak came from.
Yeardley: [00:27:59] Oh, you think she snitched him out?
Carl: [00:28:02] Either intentionally or unintentionally.
Dan: [00:28:04] Yeah, she doesn’t know that she’s giving really damning information on her boyfriend.
Yeardley: [00:28:08] And she isn’t directly affiliated with either faction of the street gang. She just happens to be dating a guy who’s in it.
Carl: [00:28:14] Yeah. We can speculate that she gave up information that came back to the gang that he was a snitch, because we even looked at the agency that was using him, and no, they were airtight. It wasn’t them. It came from another source, and the most likely source was her.
Yeardley: [00:28:30] Do you think that she suffered any repercussions for that suspicion?
Carl: [00:28:33] Shortly after the case was solved, she moved. She left town.
Yeardley: [00:28:38] The girlfriend left town?
Carl: [00:28:39] Yes.
Dave: [00:28:40] I’m guessing Jesse was in the lifestyle for a long time. Jesse’s got prison tattoos. He’s been in the joint before.
Yeardley: [00:28:47] Does he have kids? Or, did he grow up in that community?
Carl: [00:28:49] Yes, he did grow up in the community. He did not have children that he knew of. He did have a brother and sister, who are very respectable members of the community. One of them owned a butcher shop. The other one owned a nightclub. They were working people. They were actually really good folks. Jesse’s folks were good people. He was just that one that took a different road.
Yeardley: [00:29:15] What about Benny?
Carl: [00:29:18] Benny came from a line within the gangs. He’s been in it. His dad was in it. His grandpa was in it. It was kind of a family business, so it was expected for him to go into it.
Yeardley: [00:29:28] So, if Benny’s family has a legacy in this gang, then going down for this murder probably isn’t that big a deal. Doing this murder gives him status.
Carl: [00:29:39] Yes. What he confessed to was that the night of the burglary, they were supposed to go hit this house. They made three trips to this house emptying it out. They decided to split this stuff. The stuff that was taken to Jesse’s house was his cut of the burglary. That’s why his girlfriend saw him come home, but he had to turn around and leave. It was under the story that Jesse was going to help unload the rest of the stuff. Basically, “You help me unload my stuff and I’ll help you unload yours.” They go back to the house to make a fourth trip.
Dave: [00:30:16] This residence that’s burglarized, is there any reason why the Jones residence was targeted? Did Benny and Acevedo and Jesse know that Jones were out of town for a certain amount of time?
Carl: [00:30:28] As we found out later on, the paint company that Benny worked for had done some work out there. It wasn’t necessarily the house that they were interested in. It was the bridge they were interested in.
Dan: [00:30:40] This is a good place to kill someone.
Dave: [00:30:42] Right. We can get Jesse out here to the locale. We’ve got a target of opportunity here that also serves another purpose, that we’ve transported him from his house out to a desolate place where we can dump him.
Carl: [00:30:54] That’s right. On the way out there, they started giving Jesse a lot of cocaine, because remember, Jesse’s almost six feet tall, he’s a big guy.
Dave: [00:31:02] Right. You need to limit his capacity a little bit.
Carl: [00:31:05] You need to level the playing field a little bit.
Yeardley: [00:31:07] Wouldn’t cocaine amp you up? Wouldn’t you want to give him Xanax or something?
Carl: [00:31:12] Well, I don’t know if they had any.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:31:14] Fair enough.
Carl: [00:31:16] But hey had enough cocaine to where Jesse became intoxicated on cocaine. He was starting to go in and out. Cocaine mixed with alcohol. They finally got him to a point where he was sluggish. So, they got back out to the Joneses, passed it up, went to the side of a road under the premise that they had to go to the bathroom. This is out in the country, there’s no lights, there’s nothing out there. Jesse gets out to go to the bathroom. When he does, that is when Benny says he goes up behind him and begins to stab him from behind, pulling the knife into his chest.
Yeardley: [00:32:03] Benny is behind Jesse and he’s reaching around and stabbing him in the chest, like he’s hugging him, but he’s stabbing him?
Carl: [00:32:10] Yes.
Dan: [00:32:11] Presumably, Acevedo has given him the go ahead. Like, “Now’s the time.”
Carl: [00:32:15] Yes. Acevedo had told him, “Whenever we stop here, that’s when you go and do it.” That conversation took place while Jesse was upstairs taking his part of the burglary up and he said, “Okay, this is what’s up next.” Of course, when you get stabbed, Jesse turns around. Now, Jesse’s mad. Now, Acevedo and Benny start to go to work on him. Once Jesse goes down to one knee, Acevedo stops because Benny is supposed to do it. So, Benny continues to stab him. He goes down to the ground. And it was at that time that Benny lifts up Jesse’s head and slices his throat.
Dan: [00:32:52] I’ve seen videos in prison of prison stabbings with prison shanks, and it’s pretty shocking sight to see how violent and fast it happens. I would imagine that this assault kind of looks like that.
Carl: [00:33:04] That’s kind of what the scene presented, several stab wounds, none of them really, really deep, but some of them deep enough. Some of them were superficial while some of them were really down, deep into the organs. The autopsy would show that as well. Of course, the fatal wound would be whenever Benny cut his throat, he continued to bleed out. At the autopsy, one of the things that we had to address, what happened to this tattoo?
Dan: [00:33:28] Well, he’s not in the gang anymore, so he doesn’t own it.
Carl: [00:33:31] Yes. The tattoos are the property of the gang. Jesse was ordered to be killed. There had to be two things in order to prove Benny’s loyalty. One, he had to commit the murder. Two, he had to show proof that he did commit the murder.
Yeardley: [00:33:45] Does he take the flesh with the tattoo on it and present it to someone?
Carl: [00:33:49] Yes. Him and Acevedo had to take that piece of skin that was unique with the gang insignia on it, to a verifying party that would verify that, yes, that belonged to him. And yes, it came off of him.
Dave: [00:34:05] Were you guys able to find the actual scene where the stabbing happened?
Carl: [00:34:08] We found a suspected area, and it’s about as good as we could do, because we’re almost 10 days into this homicide, and we did find a place that tested positive for blood. But at that time, DNA services were just now starting to come online. Out in this area, we didn’t have anything that would be able to positively identify it. It did test positive for blood. Was it human? Was it animal? Who knows?
Dave: [00:34:35] Could have been roadkill.
Dan: [00:34:36] You’re at the mercy of the weather too.
Carl: [00:34:37] Oh, yes. And it had rained, it was cold. So, there was a lot of stuff going on at that time, but we suspect we know where it was. It made sense. From where they allegedly killed Jesse to where they dropped his body, it made sense. Now, the only thing that didn’t make sense and Benny was adamant about it. He picked up Jesse by himself and put him in the trunk.
Dan: [00:35:02] What’s Benny’s stature?
Carl: [00:35:04] Benny is about 5’7″, a buck and a half.
Dan: [00:35:08] That’s exactly how I pictured him actually.
Carl: [00:35:11] There’s no way.
Dan: [00:35:11] He’s trying to gain credit and status in prison. So, when he gets there, people know that he really handled business.
Dave: [00:35:19] Right. And Jesse’s dead weight, there’s no way.
Carl: [00:35:21] At almost six foot. Yeah. Even if he could get him into the trunk of the car, he couldn’t get him out. Just no way. We knew that Acevedo was involved in the murder. The prosecutor determined, “Hey, look, this guy, Benny, he’s taking credit for the whole ride. We have no direct evidence that’s going to link Acevedo other than the likelihood that he had to participate in it somehow.”
Dave: [00:35:47] Right. Benny might be trying to help Acevedo with keeping him from being involved. Like, “Hey, he was just there. He didn’t know that I was going to stab him.” Trying to protect him a little bit, maybe get a little bit more cred because he’s not sending Acevedo back to prison for being complicit in the murder.
Yeardley: [00:36:03] Did that work? Did Acevedo end up not going back to prison for this murder?
Carl: [00:36:07] [chuckles] Ironically, because Acevedo was a habitual offender, he ended up getting more time for burglary than what he did for the murder.
Dan: [00:36:16] Did you ever find the murder weapons?
Carl: [00:36:17] Yes, we did.
Dan: [00:36:18] What did they do with those?
Carl: [00:36:19] Well, the murder weapons were in Benny’s lunchbox. They were two separate folding knives. One of the things that really tied him into it is that one of the folding knives during the attack folded on top of Benny slicing the inside of his hand.
Dave: [00:36:37] So, this is in his lunchbox at his worksite when you guys pick him up?
Carl: [00:36:40] Yes, because it was also, I mean, his work knife. [laughs]
Dan: [00:36:45] Are they cleaned off or haphazardly cleaned off?
Carl: [00:36:48] It’s very, very poorly cleaned. There was debris, there was obvious blood in there. So, I mean yes.
Dan: [00:36:55] You’d have to take that knife all the way apart to clean it properly.
Carl: [00:36:59] Yes. It wasn’t an expensive knife. It was one of those–
Dan: [00:37:02] Truck stop knives?
Carl: [00:37:03] Well, yeah, it was a truck stop knife. That’s exactly what we would call it. You got at a truck stop that cost about 15 bucks. For some reason, he felt the need to keep it. Once again, we did find out what he did with the car. How did it get so clean? He took it to the carwash.
Yeardley: [00:37:18] Did he wash the car at the car wash? Because if there’s an attendant, I would think they’d be like, “Dude, what has been in your trunk?”
Carl: [00:37:24] No, he pulled the carpet out of the trunk of the car and used the hand car wash, the wand, to wash the blood out of the carpet.
Dave: [00:37:35] You know, it’s funny, I work graveyard. And the other night, I’m driving down one of our major thoroughfares, there’s one of these car washes. There’s three bays and I look over and there’s this guy just feverishly washing his car. And I think to myself, this is like one of those things where in the middle of the night, you just murdered somebody, like, “I’ve got to get this car clean before somebody sees me in the daylight.” I mean this guy’s just going at it. I kind of rolled through and he just waved at me and, I’m thinking, “You never know.”
Yeardley: [00:38:04] Right. Could you stop and say, “Dude, is there a problem?”
Dave: [00:38:07] I could, but I mean, what are the chances?
Carl: [00:38:10] Yeah, you certainly get that mentality of, “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.” And you just go from there.
Yeardley: [00:38:16] What about Benny? Did he plead guilty? Did he plead not guilty? What happened to him?
Carl: [00:38:21] Actually, Benny would end up pleading guilty to murder. He was sentenced to 55 years.
Yeardley: [00:38:26] 55.
Carl: [00:38:28] Yeah. Ironically, Acevedo, who was not sentenced to the murder, was sentenced as a habitual felon and got 60 years for the burglary.
Yeardley: [00:38:39] Wow.[laughter]
Dan: [00:38:41] Any blowback when they got to their new home?
Carl: [00:38:44] Since then, Benny has progressed through the ranks-
Yeardley: [00:38:46] In prison-
Carl: [00:38:48] -in prison.
Yeardley: [00:38:48] -in his gang?
Carl: [00:38:49] Yes. Acevedo maintained his rank, and committed a few more hits while in prison.
Yeardley: [00:38:57] You mean ordered a few more murders while in prison?
Carl: [00:38:59] No. So, basically, he had to make up for snitching on Benny.
Yeardley: [00:39:04] How do you do that in prison?
Dave: [00:39:05] He’s got to commit crimes against other inmates.
Yeardley: [00:39:08] Anything from murder to extortion, prostitution.
Dan: [00:39:12] Anything to further the interests of his gang.
Yeardley: [00:39:14] In prison?
Dan: [00:39:15] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:39:16] I just feel so naive. Ugh. Wow. So many lives were laid to waste in this episode.
Carl: [00:39:22] Yep.
Yeardley: [00:39:23] Carl, this was amazing.
Carl: [00:39:25] [chuckles]
Dan: [00:39:27] Sheriff Carl, A-plus. Appreciate it.
Yeardley: [00:39:29] Thank you.
Carl: [00:39:30] Thank you.[music]
Yeardley: [00:39:34] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate produces are Erin Gaynor and The Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. And our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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Dan: [00:40:35] In search of the finest-
Dave: [00:40:37] -rare-
Dan: [00:40:38] -true crime cases told, as always, by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave: [00:40:43] So, thanks for listening, Small Town fam.
Yeardley: [00:40:45] Nobody’s better than you.