Drug Cartel Beheading in Arizona: Mexican ring's gruesome slaying of drug thief may be U.S. first

Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy
Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy, believed killed by Mexican drug cartel

(CBS/AP) CHANDLER, Ariz. - Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy stole 400 pounds of marijuana from a Mexican drug cartel - a crime the cartel deemed worthy of chasing him across the border into Arizona, killing and decapitating him.

Cota-Monroy's body was found stabbed Oct. 10 in his Chandler apartment - his severed head a couple feet away, according to the police report.

It's a killing that police say was clearly meant to send a message that anyone who betrays the traffickers will get the same treatment.

The horrific display is believed to be the only beheading by a Mexican drug cartel in the United States.

Chandler police have said from the beginning that they strongly suspected it was the work of a Mexican drug ring, but it wasn't clear exactly why until a police report was released Wednesday. The report, citing Border Patrol intelligence, said that Cota-Monroy stole 400 pounds of marijuana and some meth from the PEI-Estatales/El Chapo drug trafficking organization. Cota-Monroy told the cartel that the Border Patrol had seized the drugs, but the cartel learned the truth and hired men to kidnap and kill him in Nogales, Mexico.

Cota-Monroy was initially able to talk his way out of being killed, telling the cartel that he'd pay back the money and used his home as collateral, the report says. But, he ended up fleeing, because the home was not his own. The cartel then allegedly hired assassins to go to Arizona, befriend Cota-Monroy and then kill him.

"It was a very gruesome scene," Chandler police Detective David Ramer said Wednesday. "Anytime you see a headless body stabbed multiple times, obviously that's gruesome. And this is a message being sent -- not only are they going to kill you but they're going to dismember your body, and 'If you cross us, this is what happens.'"

Decapitations have become a regular part of the drug war in Mexico. Headless bodies have been dangled from bridges by their feet and severed heads have been sent to victims' family members and government officials.

One man, Crisantos Moroyoqui, has been charged in the killing, and three others are believed to have fled to Mexico.

The other suspects were identified as Jose David Castro Reyes, 25; Isai Aguilar Morales, 22, and a man between the ages of 20 and 27 known only by the nickname "El Joto," a derogatory Spanish term for a gay man.