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Suspect charged with murder in Griffith Park body-parts case

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeHomicideLaw EnforcementTheftJustice SystemRite Aid Corp.

The man accused of killing his boyfriend and dumping his severed head, hands and feet below the Hollywood sign two years ago has been charged with murder, prosecutors said.

Gabriel Campos-Martinez, 36, faces a single count of murder in connection with the 2012 death of Hervey Medellin, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said. Campos-Martinez was arrested by LAPD's elite robbery-homicide detectives Sunday in San Antonio, Texas.

Campos-Martinez was being held on $1-million bail in Texas pending an extradition hearing. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in state prison.

Ed Winter, the deputy chief of investigations at the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said that Medellin probably died of asphyxia and neck compression but noted that other injuries were unknown because only the head, hands and feet were recovered. 

Still, Deputy Dist. Atty Bobby Grace said the body parts were enough to tell Medellin was killed after he vanished shortly after Christmas 2011. Grace said Medellin's eyes showed classic “signs of strangulation.”

Grace said Medellin was last seen Dec. 26, and investigators believe that Campos-Martinez, a former chef, killed him the next day.

It remains unclear where the slaying occurred, and Campos-Martinez has not admitted to any crime, Grace said.

[For the record, 9:12 p.m. PDT, Monday, March 10, 2014: A previous version of this post incorrectly said Medellin had not admitted to any crime.]

The motive was "due to the relationship," Grace said. The prosecutor said the couple met through another man, and that Campos-Martinez may have learned Medellin was about to end their relationship. 

“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.

Detectives carefully assembled the case over two years, gathering evidence that led to the arrest and charges, Grace said.

The prosecutor said Campos-Martinez made statements to investigators "not matching the facts" of the case, including claims Medellin had gone to Mexico. There is "no evidence" that trip occurred, Grace said.

“The facts don’t match his statements about the disappearance," Grace said.

A search warrant issued in April 2012 revealed that Campos-Martinez made "inconsistent and suspicious statements" to police after his partner's body parts were found. A polygraph test also revealed he was "deceitful of dismembering the victim's body and having knowledge of the victim's murder," the court records read.

The documents also revealed that police received an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip on Jan. 16, 2012, stating Medellin had not returned from a trip to Mexico. "Because of the suspicious nature" of the tip, a detective went to the apartment Medellin shared with Campos-Martinez, the records read.

Campos-Martinez told the detective that Medellin woke up one morning and went to Mexico, leaving his car and cellphone behind, but insisted "there was nothing out of the ordinary," the documents read.

The detective asked Campos-Martinez to go to the LAPD's Hollywood station and file a missing persons report.

Campos-Martinez returned to the station later in the day "crying uncontrollably" and asked for a copy of the report, the court documents read.

The next day, dog walkers discovered Medellin's head wrapped in a plastic bag. Authorities launched a massive search with cadaver dogs and found two feet and a hand wrapped in a Rite Aid bag and buried in a shallow grave. The second hand was found later.

Medellin was identified using the fingerprints from the right hand, according to the court documents.

The case generated widespread speculation, including theories Medellin's death was tied to a Mexican drug cartel or a Canadian model and porn actor suspected in a dismemberment there. Six months after Medellin was identified, a $50,000 reward was offered in the case. 

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Monday that the killing "was and is a very difficult case.”

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said investigators had worked closely with the district attorney's office on the case. Grace said he went to Texas with detectives to interview Campos-Martinez.

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

Medellin was a retired Mexicana Airlines employee known for his love of art and hiking. Those who knew him said he sometimes walked his dog in the same hills where his body was later found.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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