A federal grand jury had indicted three men for a kidnapping conspiracy in which the defendants allegedly lured the victim from New Jersey to Maryland, in order to kill 22-year-old Jordy Mejia, whose remains were found in a shallow grave just off Game Preserve Road in Great Seneca Creek Park. The indictment was returned on Monday, March 20.
Indictment charges were brought against Neris Moreno-Martinez, also known as, Jose Neris Moreno, Jr., age 19, of West New York, NJ; Jose Israel Melendez-Rivera, age 19, of Montgomery Village; and Reynaldo Alexi Granados-Vasquez, age 21, of Gaithersburg.
According to the indictment, on October 1, 2016, Moreno created a social media account in the name of Shaila Smith. From that time until October 15, 2016, Moreno, and others acting at the direction of Moreno, posed as Shaila Smith and used the social media account to communicate with the victim. Pretending to be Shaila Smith, Moreno and his co-conspirators allegedly expressed a romantic interest in the victim and persuaded the victim to travel from New Jersey to Maryland to meet in person. Using the Shaila Smith social media account, Moreno and his co-conspirators instructed the victim when to travel to Maryland, what transportation service to use, and provided Melendez-Rivera’s address as the location where the victim should meet “Shaila Smith.”
In January, Montgomery County Police said that an investigation by detectives revealed that on October 15, 2016, the victim, Mejia, told his mother that he was traveling from their home in New Jersey to Maryland to meet a female that he had met on Facebook and would return the next day. On October 18, Mejia’s mother became concerned when the victim did not return home nor had he contacted her. She filed a missing person report with the local police department in New Jersey.
According to police, the victim was lured to Germantown from New Jersey and was picked up by Melendez-Rivera and a juvenile female who was arrested in connection with crime, but charges have since been dropped.
The indictment alleges that on October 15, 2016, Moreno traveled from New Jersey to Maryland in order to kill the victim. According to the indictment, on October 15, 2016, Moreno, Melendez-Rivera and Granados-Vasquez killed the victim in a wooded area in Gaithersburg and buried the victim’s body in a shallow grave.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
“This indictment alleges a horrifically planned effort to lure a victim across multiple states into Maryland with the sole purpose of kidnapping and inflicting grotesque bodily harm,” said Andre R. Watson, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Baltimore. “HSI will continue to use its wide jurisdictional authorities and collaborate with state and local law enforcement to ensure that we shield Maryland-area communities from this type of violent criminal activity.”
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the conspiracy. Reynaldo Granados-Vasquez had his initial appearance on Tuesday, March 21 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day, in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt and is detained. An initial appearance for Moreno and Melendez-Rivera has not yet been scheduled. They are currently detained on related state charges.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
In January, Montgomery County Police announced that two juvenile females were also arrested in connection with this kidnapping and murder. Police arrested Jackelin Leiba-Esperanza, 16, of Silver Spring, and a second 17-year-old girl from Montgomery Village. According to court documents, prosecutors are no longer going forward with murder charges against the second female and she was released from custody on Thursday, March 23. The Germantown Pulse is not identifying her because she is under the age of 18 and charges have been dropped.
Leiba-Esperanza is facing first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for May 19 in front of Judge Terrance J. McGann in Montgomery County Circuit Court, with a jury trial set for July 17, 2017.
Photos courtesy MCPD.