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Suspect held in death of man whose head was found in Griffith Park

The head was discovered first, wrapped in a plastic 99 Cents Only Store bag along one of the hiking trails below the Hollywood sign.

The right hand and feet were found a day later, this time in a Rite Aid bag buried in a 6-inch grave. The left hand was uncovered hours later.

Now, more than two years after the grisly discovery in Griffith Park, Los Angeles police have announced an arrest in the slaying of 66-year-old Hervey Medellin: Medellin's boyfriend, who had long been a person of interest in the case.

Gabriel Campos-Martinez, a 38-year-old former chef, was charged Monday with one count of murder in Medellin's death. Campos-Martinez, who was arrested Sunday night in San Antonio, remained in Texas in lieu of $1-million bail pending extradition proceedings.

At the time, the case generated intense speculation.

Some thought Medellin's killing was a hit ordered by a Mexican drug cartel. Others suspected a Canadian model and porn actor who was accused in a dismemberment case there. A security guard for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie was among those who spoke to police when they canvassed the surrounding area, as the celebrity couple have a house nearby.

But authorities say it was Campos-Martinez who strangled Medellin. L.A. County coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said the former Mexicana Airlines employee probably died of asphyxia and neck compression, but — because only his head, hands and feet were recovered — it's unclear whether there were other injuries.

It remains unclear where Medellin was killed. Deputy L.A. County Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace, who flew to Texas with detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division to make the arrest, said the motive was "due to the relationship." Campos-Martinez may have learned Medellin was about to break off the relationship, Grace said.

"Somehow, either directly or indirectly, he may have gotten the hint he wasn't going to be around and that triggered him to do this," Grace said.

Medellin was last seen Dec. 26, 2011, Grace said, and investigators believe he was killed the next day. He wasn't reported missing until Jan. 16, when detectives at LAPD's Hollywood station received an anonymous tip that Medellin hadn't returned from a trip to Mexico, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in connection with the case.

The "suspicious nature" of the tip — the caller said news of Medellin's disappearance came via emails sent from his own account — prompted a detective to go to the apartment Medellin shared with Campos-Martinez, the documents said. Campos-Martinez said Medellin had gone to Mexico and said "there was nothing out of the ordinary."

The detective asked Campos-Martinez to come to the station and file a missing persons report. He returned later in the day "crying uncontrollably" and asked to see a copy of the report, the documents said.

A dog walking with two women found Medellin's head the next day along a Bronson Canyon trail. He was identified using fingerprints from his right hand.

There was "no evidence" that Medellin had ever gone to Mexico, Grace said. The prosecutor said Campos-Martinez made other statements to investigators "not matching the facts" of the case.

The affidavit also said Campos-Martinez made "inconsistent and suspicious statements" to police two days after Medellin's head was found. A polygraph test revealed he was "deceitful of dismembering the victim's body and having knowledge of the victim's murder," the court records say.

Campos-Martinez also shared bank accounts with Medellin, had access to his ATM card and knew his Social Security number, the documents added. Investigators believed he may have been browsing websites listing cars and homes because he had plans to relocate and may have tried to sell gold and diamonds that belonged to Medellin.

It took investigators two years to assemble their case, Grace said. If convicted, Campos-Martinez faces 25 years to life in state prison.

"This was a lengthy investigation, and they reached the point where they believe they had evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the murder," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

Grace said Campos-Martinez moved to San Antonio, where his extended family lives, about a year after Medellin's death. He married a woman there, the prosecutor said, and worked concessions at the San Antonio Convention Center.

"He built a new life for himself," Grace said.

kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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