The Littleton Police Department and federal authorities in Detroit believe that Franklin Gonzalo Sierra-Rodriguez was responsible for the apparent assassination of a man in Littleton, now identified as Joaquin Lucero-Carillo.
But there's a lot more to the story than that. The murder took place amid a DEA drug investigation that's led to six arrests. Moreover, the remarkable arrest affidavit maintains that Sierra-Rodriguez drove from Detroit to Colorado to kill Lucero-Carillo, then got lost on the way back, eventually winding up in... Houston?
On May 13, according to the criminal complaint, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan applied for and got permission to intercept the cell phone communication of a man named Enrique Amaya as part of a DEA probe. Between that date and June 2, the feds listened in to phone calls involving Amaya, Sierra-Rodriguez and several other individuals named in the complaint, including Rafael Maravillas, Jesus De La Rosa-Ramirez, Franklin Baquedano and Jesus Daniel Medina-Meraz. The last man is a resident of Sheridan, Colorado.
The affidavit states that Amaya asked Baquedano to arrange transportation for Sierra-Rodriguez to travel to Colorado -- a comically complex process that only ends after two unidentified women agree to get him there in exchange for $1,000 plus expenses. However, the conversations quoted in the document don't make clear why it's so important that Sierra-Rodriguez get to the state.
On May 29, cell phone traces indicate that Sierra-Rodriguez and the women were en route to Colorado in a burgundy Pontiac Grand Prix. An excerpt:
Your affiant reviewed the precise location data for SIERRA RODRIGUEZ's telephone for the time between May 29, 2010 and May 31, 2010 and noted that records indicate SIERRA RODRIGUEZ traveled along Interstate 80 through Nebraska into Colorado. The data further reflect that SIERRA RODRIGUEZ stayed at a hotel located near West Jefferson Avenue and Vance Street, Academy Park, Colorado.
Cut to the next day, when the feds in Detroit got a piece of unexpected news. The complaint says:
On June 1, 2010 your affiant spoke to Detective Ken Hicks of the Littleton Colorado Police Department and learned that Joaquin Lucero-Carrillo was shot and killed at approximately 1:00 a.m. at his apartment located in the 700 block of West Belleview Avenue, Littleton, Colorado. Detective Hicks advised your affaint that the suspect was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he walked through the courtyard of the apartment complex and proceeded up a flight of stairs. The suspect walked directly to the apartment door and knocked. Lucero-Carrillo answered the door, the parties exchanged words and then the suspect fired multiple rounds from a handgun. The suspect then left the apartment complex and got into a dark colored car, possibly a Pontiac Grand Am.
Because the feds had a trace on Sierra-Rodriguez's cell phone, they were able to pinpoint his location precisely -- and around the time of Lucero-Carillo's murder, he was allegedly ultra-close to the apartment where the shooting took place. Again, the document:
Your affiant reviewed the precise location data for SIERRA RODRIGUEZ's cellular phone and determined that SIERRA RODRIGUEZ was in the parking lot of Lucero-Carrillo's parking lot on May 31, 2010 at 12:54 a.m. local time; this was approximately six to ten minutes prior to the shooting. SIERRA RODRIGUEZ then traveled to the area of the hotel referenced above on June 1, 2010 at approximately 1:25 a.m. At approximately 2:10 a.m. on June 1, 2010 the location data reflect that SIERRA RODRIGUEZ was traveling east on Interstate 70.
He shouldn't have been on I-70. To get back to Detroit, Sierra-Rodriguez should have found his way to Interstate 76, which hooks up with Interstate 80. But apparently, it took Sierra-Rodriguez a long, long time to figure this out, as the affidavit describes:
On June 1, 2010 your affiant reviewed calls between AMAYA and BAQUEDANO during which they discuss the murder. BAQUENDANO tells AMAYA that SIERRA RODRIGUEZ and the Unidentified Females are on the way back but they got lost and are coming across Interstate 70. During the calls AMAYA tells BAQUENDANO to instruct SIERRA RODRIGUEZ to be careful on the roads in Kansas. AMAYA also instructs BAQUEDANAO to tell SIERRA RODRIGUEZ to pull the micro-chip from SIERRA RODRIGUEZ's cellular phone and destroy it so the police cannot trace them. AMAYA further instructs BAQUEDANO to tell SIERRA RODRIGUEZ to get rid of the "tools" or "drill" if SIERRA RODRIGUEZ still has them. Based on training and experience your affiant believes that these are coded references for the gun SIERRA RODRIGUEZ used to commit the murder.
Apparently Amaya's advice about Sierra-Rodriguez removing the microchip from his cell phone was ignored. Meanwhile, Amaya had a conversation with Medina-Meraz. The two had been spotted together by authorities during an alleged drug transaction in Pontiac, Michigan in December 2009. Their June 1 chat, held after Medina-Meraz had been interviewed by the Littleton PD in relation to the Lucero-Carrillo murder, offered more damning information. Here's a partial transcript:
AMAYA: Oh. And what happened with this guy.
MEDINA-MERAZ: What guy?
AMAYA:With "El Cuarra"?
MEDINA-MERAZ:Well, they killed him -- Didn't I tell you in the morning?
AMAYA: And how?
MEDINA-MERAZ: Someone got in to his apartment.
AMAYA:They didn't want to tell you anything?
MEDINA-MERAZ: No, we just went and they're checking cars right now and all.
AMAYA: Oh. Did he have his truck?
MEDINA-MERAZ: The truck was taken by the police.
AMAYA: The red (U/T).
MEDINA-MERAZ: Yeah, well I told them the red truck was there, that was the one he used. They're going to take it to get checked and see what.
AMAYA: So, they came in the house just like that, then?
MEDINA-MERAZ: Yes. Well that's what we said I -- what -- I told them what was up with that, that asshole wouldn't even open the door for me.
AMAYA: Uh-huh, well... was someone there with him or what?
MEDINA-MERAZ: That's what -- in other words, that's what I don't know, the police didn't give me much information. Matter a fact, they don't even allow you in the area where...
AMAYA:Not at the apartment?
AMAYA: Umm... (Long pause) (Makes small low tone whistling noises) And how was it with... bullets or...
MEDINA-MERAZ: Yeah. Well they fired at him.
AMAYA: How many?
MEDINA-MERAZ: No well, they didn't want to tell me.
AMAYA:Yeah, well it seemed like he was going to come back -- he was on his way -- his cousin was by -- there were going to -- I think his cousin was going to stop by to sleep.
MEDINA-MERAZ: Alright, okay.
AMAYA: He was going to stop by to sleep by... where it's real ugly. That they were already on their way on the 7-0 but they got confused and they went that way.
MEDINA-MERAZ: Ohh. Okay.
AMAYA: But the other guy spoke with him. I haven't spoken to him.
MEDINA-MERAZ: (Unintelligible) You're a little worried; if you want I'll call you later on, see what.
By the way, Medina-Meraz's vehicle had been found in the parking lot of Lucero-Carrillo's apartment complex. The affidavit says that Medina-Meraz told the Littleton PD that Lucero-Carrillo had purchased it from him, but that the registration had yet to be transferred.
The end of Sierra-Rodriguez's freedom came the next day, thanks to the microchip that remained in his cell phone. The affidavit states:
On June 2, 2010 your affiant spoke with members of the Houston Texas Police Department and advised them that SIERRA-RODRIGUEZ's cellular telephone was located near Pinemont Drive and Hempstead Highway in Houston, Texas. At approximately 6:39 a.m. CST Sergeant Hibbert of the Houston Police Department called your affiant to advise him that SIERRA-RODRIGUEZ and the two UNKNOWN FEMALES were arrested at a hotel near Pinemont and Hempstead. The Houston Police Department also seized the burgundy 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix the trio was driving.
How the hell did Sierra-Rodriguez and his female companions wind up in Houston when they were supposedly bound for Detroit? The affidavit doesn't say. But Medina-Meraz was advised of the charges against him in U.S. District Court in Denver yesterday, with a preliminary and detention hearing slated for 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 8.
In other words, he's unlikely to be making inexplicable, Sierra-Rodriguez-like detours anytime soon.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.