The burned-out truck Alexander County officials sought is back in Taylorsville. The vehicle, which is believed to have belonged to the boyfriend of a woman killed in June, was found by a hunter in Grayson County, Virginia on Monday.
There were three bodies in the bed of the vehicle. The bodies, like the truck, were burned.
Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman said the bodies will remain in Virginia and an autopsy will be performed on each. The autopsies will likely take several weeks to complete, Bowman said.
He added that he cannot be sure if the bodies are those of Maria Calderon Martinez, 38, Juan Carlos Mendez-Pena and Luis Fernando Sanchez. But he said he believes the autopsies will reveal it to be the three.
Bowman said the three bodies are confirmed to be those of a woman and two men.
Detective Ben Brown with the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office said the vehicle, which belonged to Mendez-Pena, was found in a Christmas tree farm in Grayson County and was easily a half-mile into the woods from the main road.
“We’ve been looking for the truck since June,” Bowman said.
Areli Aguirre-Avilez, 30, of Taylorsville and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Heidi Darlene Wolfe of Wilkesboro, are each charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Martinez and two of her children — 11-year-old Angel E. Pacheco and 12-year-old America D. Pacheco.
Bowman said he believes it was Aguirre-Avilez who drove the truck to the location in Grayson County and someone followed him to the county to drive him from there — possibly Wolfe. “We will have to prove as to who the second person (who was with Aguirre-Avilez) if it was (Wolfe) or somebody else,” he said. “We do know it was two. Somebody to drive the truck. Somebody to pick them up.”
On Tuesday, the vehicle came back to Alexander County on the back of a flatbed truck.
Bowman said a strong accelerant had to have been used in order for the truck to be in the condition it is now.
Bowman said the truck will be scoured for evidence. “We will be looking for any evidence that might be left in the vehicle,” he said.
Bowman said it is not clear whether the three were killed in Alexander County or in Grayson County, but he believes they were most likely killed in Alexander County. “I think it would be difficult to hogtie three people in the back of the truck,” Bowman said.
There are now five bodies, all with some connection to the Martinez home and a fateful night in June.
“I do feel bad for the families that are involved in this and I’m hoping that they can get some closure,” Bowman said.
Bowman said they are now working alongside Grayson County Sheriff’s Office in this investigation.