UPDATE: 3 indicted in Whitfield Co. burned body case
Whitfield County deputies arrested a third person in connection to a burned body case from January.
UPDATE: A joint investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the indictment of three individuals who are charged in the murder of a Tennessee man whose body was found in Georgia.
At the request of 20th District Attorney General Glenn Funk, on March 6, 2017, TBI Special Agents joined Agents with the GBI in investigating the death of Luis Antonio Lopez (DOB 09/13/1990) of La Vergne. On January 10, 2017, GBI began an investigation after the victim’s partially-burned body was discovered in a wooded area near Dalton, GA. During the course of the investigation, Agents determined Mr. Lopez had been murdered in Davidson County, TN. The investigation revealed that three friends of the victim, Hector Ruiz and Kevin Palacio of Antioch, and Roberto Viera-Aybar of La Vergne, were the individuals responsible for his murder and the disposal of his body.
On March 19th, the Davidson County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Hector J. Ruiz (DOB 01/15/1988), Kevin Isaza Palacio (DOB 03/09/1993), and Roberto Josue Viera-Aybar (DOB 07/14/1993) each with one count of First Degree Murder. On March 25th, Ruiz was served in the Davidson County Jail, where he has been incarcerated on unrelated charges. His bond was set at $500,000. Palacio and Viera-Aybar are currently in a Georgia jail after being arrested on charges related to this case. Both have holds placed on them pending their extradition to Nashville.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: Whitfield County deputies arrested a third person in connection to a burned body case from January.
Kevin Isaza, 23, of Antioch, was booked in the Whitfield County Jail in April 2017 for murder.
Investigators arrested two others in February in the burned body case, but they had not found Isaza.
Officials said that Isaza had fled to California after arrest warrants were issued for him. Last week, U.S. Marshals were able to locate him and arrest him in Sacramento.
Whitfield County deputies flew to California over the weekend and drove Isaza back to Georgia.
PREVIOUS STORY: An arrest has been made in the case of where a burned body was dumped in the woods in Whitfield County.
Investigators with Whitfield County and Georgia Bureau of Investigation made several trips to Nashville and Murfreesboro area to conduct interviews and collect evidence from the case.
On February 16, evidence was presented to a Whitfield County Magistrate Judge and Murder warrants were issued. US Marshals were notified and were able to get two suspects into custody.
Roberto "Chico" Viera Aybar, 23, of Antioch, TN was taken into custody and detained at the Murfreesboro Jail. He was brought back to Whitfield Co on Monday a murder charge. Hector Ruiz, 29, of Nashville, was taken into custody and is currently being held in the Metro Nashville Jail. He will be transported back to Whitfield County soon.
Lopez was arrested months before his death as part of a large-scale drug bust. Metro Nashville police arrested Lopez and 11 others for a marijuana "grow and distribution" network.
Also arrested, was Hector Ruiz. One of the men charged in his death.
"We're certainly aware of it, that they were parties to a very large drug bust in the Nashville area, but regarding the investigation we have ongoing right now we don't feel that's connected in any way, that was totally a separate investigation," Sheriff Chitwood said.
The Sheriff said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the murder.
"Why Dalton, why here and why this location, what was the motive in the killing of this gentleman? again that might be the million dollar question but hopefully the investigation will reveal a great deal to us as we continue," Sheriff Chitwood said.
PREVIOUS STORY: Whitfield County Sheriff's Office have identified the body that was found burned in a wooded area off of Ellis Road.
The Sheriff said the body is Luis Lopez, 26, from Nashville and the body had been placed at the location and partially burned less than 24 hours before it was discovered.
Lopez's family had reported him missing shortly after the body was discovered.
Investigators believe that Lopez may have been murdered in Tennessee and the suspect(s) involved drove him to Whitfield County to dispose of the body. Whitfield County Investigators are working with GBI, TBI, and other Tennessee law enforcement agencies and said "significant information" has been developed as part of the investigation.
Lopez's sister, Ana Lopez from Nashville, is trying to understand why her brother was murdered. She described Lopez as a brother, uncle, son and friend.
"He was a very outgoing person, lovable, will give you the shirt on his back if you need it," she said during a phone interview on Wednesday.
While his family grieves their loss, Ana wants to tell the family of the young boy who found his body, she's sorry he has to endure that kind of trauma.
"I don't know how he could feel to find something so horrible, you know he's only a little boy, he's only 13," Ana Lopez said, "I can only imagine how he feels or how his mom or dad feels."
Ana said they lost their mother at a young age and the rest of their family is in Mexico.
Lopez has always been there for her but has had struggles of his own.
"I just really don't know who would have done this to him, you know me and him have two different lives, literally," Ana said.
In June of 2016, Lopez was one of eleven who were arrested for their role in a high-grade marijuana grow and distribution network operated in Nashville by Cuban nationals.
The Whitfield County Sheriff's Office has not said if his arrest has anything to do with his murder.
Lopez's sister said he had dreams of starting his own construction business, and was getting his life on the right track.
"We're not perfect, we make mistakes in our past and he was trying to get on the right path and get his life straightened out," Ana Lopez said.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: Investigators say they believe they have identified the burned body found in Whitfield County last week.
The body was found by a teen in a wooded area off Ellis Road on January 10.
Sheriff Scott Chitwood says investigators believe they have an identification for the body, due to a missing persons reports that was filed in another state, which lists similar characteristics to the body found off Ellis Road.
Sheriff Chitwood says DNA has been sent to the GBI Crime Lab, but it will take several weeks before the lab can confirm if it is the missing person.
No name has been released at this time.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: Whitfield County Sheriff's Deputies are investigating the death of a man found burned in the woods, Tuesday. Authorities say it was a 13-year-old boy who made the discovery in a wooded area at the dead end of Ellis road.
Deputies believe the male body had been at this location near neighboring homes for less than 24 hours before it was found.
Neighbor Dot Norrell says she's lived on Ellis road for 35 years and has never been this shaken up.
"It's very quiet you can sleep 4 to 4 or 8 in the night to 8 the next day or whatever," said neighbor Dot Norrell.
Norrell saw the blue lights right outside her window, then got the news from her husband.
"He told me that it was a crime scene and I said what down here... I couldn't believe it," said Norrell.
The body was discovered around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, just after school.
"They say it really has upset him," said Norrell. "I'm glad my husband didn't see it, he would have gone all to pieces."
"It wasn't off into the deep wooded area," said Sheriff Scott Chitwood, Whitfield County Sheriff's Dept. "It was in an area where if one was walking into the woods, they would come upon it."
Deputies believe the man was placed in the woods and set on fire, but they aren't sure how the man died or why he was burned.
"Set them on fire...how could anybody do that," said Norrell. "I just don't know, I just don't know."
Anyone with information that can help investigators is asked to the call the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office.
"We're totally in the dark right now as to who did it," said Sheriff Chitwood.
Officials say the burned body was taken to the state crime lab for an autopsy. Authorities hope to learn more after an official ID and cause of death is determined.
ORIGINAL STORY: A burned body was discovered Tuesday night in South Whitfield County.
Captain Rick Swiney tells Channel 3 the male body was found around 4:30 p.m in a wooded area at the dead end of Ellis Road.
The body was discovered by a juvenile walking through the woods. When officers arrive they found the body had been set on fire.
Officials believe the body has been at the location less than 24 hours.
The victim's identity is unknown at this time.
The body was taken to the GBI Crime Lab for autopsy.