The motive in a June double homicide may have been related to drug money, according to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.
At a news conference Thursday announcing the arrests of two suspects in the homicides, Perry said that although the investigation is continuing, “it appears at this time that the motive for these murders may have been related to money over drugs.”
Jonathan “Johnny” Rivera-Olvera, 24, of 244 Clyde Prillaman Drive, and James Travis Moore, 33, of 71 Canterbury Lane, were arrested in connection with the June 27 and June 28 deaths of brothers Alfonso Navarro-Pena, 40, and Noel Navarro-Pena, 33.
Alfonso Navarro-Pena was found in a red 1998 Ford F-150 extended cab truck at 195 Daniel Road, Axton, according to previous reports. Noel Navarro-Pena was found lying in a parking lot on Sportsplex Way in Axton near a 2004 Nissan Titan pickup. Each man had been shot in the head, police have said.
Rivera-Olvera was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, while Moore was charged with one count each of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Perry said.
Both men are being held in the Henry County Jail under no bond, according to a sheriff’s office news release.
A break in the case came Tuesday, Perry said, and a combination of sheriff’s office investigators and officers and ICE agents worked continuously from 4 a.m. Wednesday through about 6 a.m. Thursday to gather information and make the arrests.
Perry said the arrests could have a significant impact on the area drug trade.
“It is apparent that it is breaking up substantial drug dealing,” Perry said. “We’re not talking street-level drug sales, we’re talking the higher level drug dealers. ... We do believe it will have an impact. We will wait to see how much. ... They are still sealed records, but we have uncovered documents, such as ledgers, that have names and amounts. We’ll still be interpreting that data. This could branch out further.”
According to previous Bulletin reports, a total of $2,028 in cash and other items were seized in a search of the truck registered to Alfonso Navarro-Pena. Items seized from a search of 211 Sugar Tree Drive, the home of the Navarro-Pena brothers, included $27,891 in cash; 25 pounds of purported marijuana; 2.6 ounces of purported cocaine; and numerous other items.
Perry said the quantity of drugs involved suggests a “pipeline”-type activity with the drugs being funneled through Henry County to another location.
The sheriff said he could not say for certain what the origin point of the drugs was. He added that although a substantial quantity of purported marijuana was recovered, “I would say this (investigation) is probably going to center more around cocaine.”
Perry said that although it felt good to make arrests in the case, “this is a tragedy that occurred within a community. It’s good to give the community answers, and it has been tremendous to watch the working relationship. ... There have been numerous hours poured into this case.”
Perry said that when the shootings occurred, multiple agencies reached out to offer assistance to the sheriff’s office, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Secret Service.
The most instrumental agency, however, was U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Perry said. ICE agents Larry Cosme and Rosa Quincero closely assisted the department during the investigation, he added.
“One of the things that they brought to the table was the ability to tell what documentation was correct, what was forged ... and then overcoming the language barrier in this case,” he said. “They have been exceptional resources, and the working relationship has been tremendous.”