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Beheadding in Arizona

Chandler detectives are investigating whether Mexican drug-cartel members who pray to the "Saint of Death" are responsible for the stabbing and decapitation of a man earlier this month.

"Certainly they are looking at the role that Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) played in this as that is a religion that drug cartels follow because they believe it will protect them from law enforcement," Chandler Detective David Ramer said Tuesday.

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The three suspects and victim had been visiting from Mexico, according to police reports.

Candles and an Ouija (spirit) board were found in the central-city apartment. Beheadings have been known to be used as part of the Santa Muerta religion, police said.

Additionally, neighbors reported the four visitors and a neighbor of the apartment in the 300 block of West Fairview Street spoke drunkenly of the religion as they talked until the early hours of Oct. 10.

"While inside (the five men) were all talking drunk about Santa Muerte, which means the Saint of Death in Spanish, and were acting so strangely that (a resident) felt uncomfortable enough to leave the apartment a few minutes later," a police report reads.

The report released Tuesday describes the last minutes of a man who was stabbed, decapitated and left in a pool of blood. It also provides details about the four men who had been drinking with him, as well as claims by neighbors that the men practiced Santa Muerte.

The murder victim has been identified as Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy, 38.

Police have arrested one suspect, a neighbor who was renting a bed for $100 a month in the apartment across the way. They are searching for three suspects they alternately describe as being from Mexico and California in a case they say is drug related.

"Was this guy killed as part of the religion? They are looking that this might be drug-cartel related, and we know that drug cartels practice this religion," Ramer said of Santa Muerte.

Outside the small apartment at about 5:30 a.m. that day, witnesses saw three of the visitors flee in a dark maroon Ford Expedition, the police report said. Inside, residents found the fourth visitor, lying on his stomach in a large pool of blood, his head about a foot and a half away from his torso, police said. A large kitchen knife was found, but police have not said whether it is the murder weapon.

Within hours, police arrested Crisantos Moroyoqui, 36, the fifth man seen drinking with the visitors. He had blood on his pants and shoes, police said. He was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder and hindering prosecution, police said.

Moroyoqui had fallen asleep in the apartment where he had lived for three months, working as a day laborer, while the three visitors were speeding away, according to reports.

The following information comes from the police report:

The visitors had rented a room at the Value Place hotel at 43rd Avenue and Interstate 10 in Phoenix from Oct. 6-14. On the night of Oct. 9, Moroyoqui met the four visitors at the El Coyote bar in Chandler, then wound up back at the apartment. Moroyoqui at one point was heard shouting at the murder victim, "Who are you? Who are you?" Another witness called a friend "crying and afraid" and reported there had been a knife fight.

The other suspects are:

-  Juan Campos Morales Aguilar. He is about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 220 pounds and has short, dark hair and a thin mustache. He was least seen wearing a black shirt with a white T-shirt and jeans.

-  Jose David Castro Reyes, 25. He is about 5 feet 10 inches tall, is clean shaven and has short hair. He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt.

-  The third suspect, whose full name is not known, is about 5 feet 3 inches tall, with short, spiked black hair and a goatee. He was wearing a white T-shirt with a black patterned shirt and Levis

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/chandler/articles/2010/10/27/20101027beheading1027.html#ixzz13f2tHO6J

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