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Phoenix murder suspects sent photos of mutilated body to gay victim's family, police say

Hate crime reporting to FBI drops
Hate crime reporting to FBI drops despite many incidents last year 05:12

Three suspects have been arrested in the killing of a Phoenix man whose friends and family allege was targeted because of his sexual orientation, authorities said.

The body Bernardo Pantaleon, 30, was found dead in a city park. Court records indicated he had been shot and later mutilated.

Bernardo Pantaleon GoFundMe

The suspects were arrested Saturday and are being held on bonds ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. One of the men is charged with first-degree murder, while the other two are facing conspiracy charges. Lawyers for the men did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment about the charges.

Police said the suspects sent photos of Pantaleon's body to his family members.

On Nov. 26, Pantaleon's body was found with "significant trauma" on a trail near Mountain View Park, CBS affiliate KPHO-TV reported. Pantaleon's family said he was found naked, beaten and brutally tortured, so bad that detectives asked loved ones not to see him in that condition. 

Pantaleon's friends and family have said they believe he was the victim of a hate crime because he was gay and often wore glamorous clothing. Police investigators said the suspects - all in their early 20s - planned to rob Pantaleon and then kill him.

Detectives said they reviewed social media messages between the three suspects in which they allegedly discussed and planned Pantaleon's killing.

"Some made derogatory remarks regarding the victim's sexuality and a derogatory statement about homosexuals not being allowed" in Phoenix's northside, according to a probable cause statement.

Police said the suspects were interviewed and acknowledged the plan to kill Pantaleon.

According to court paperwork, Santiago admitted to police he killed Pantaleon after "an unwanted advance made him uncomfortable," KPHO-TV reported.

"He ultimately shot the victim several times, killing him, leaving him, and returning an hour later with his codefendant Manuel Carrasco, who then mutilated the victim's body," said an attorney on behalf of the state. 

Pantaleon's family has launched a GoFundMe, which has raised over $5,600 as of Wednesday morning.

KPHO-TV reported that Pantaleon's death shares similarities to a high-profile unsolved murder of another gay man from Phoenix -- Benjamin Anderson -- who was murdered and tortured in January 2022.

While Phoenix police are investigating Pantaleon's murder, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is probing Anderson's murder and is aware of the similarities as both investigations continue, the station reported.

The Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD documented 356 anti-LGBTQ+ nationwide incidents motivated by hate between June 2022 and April 2023, according to a study released in June. 

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