Murder victim in Phoenix park allegedly mutilated by suspects with gang ties

Dec 4, 2023, 1:40 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2023, 6:47 am

PHOENIX — Newly released information describes the gruesome details of the murder of a gay man at a Phoenix park last month allegedly orchestrated by local gang members.

Officers found 30-year-old Bernardo Pantaleon dead around 12:30 p.m. Sunday on Nov. 26 at Mountain View Park near Seventh and Peoria avenues, the Phoenix Police Department said.

Pantaleon appeared to have been shot multiple times. There were injuries to his head, neck and torso, and his body was mutilated, according to court documents.

How were the Phoenix park murder suspects caught?

During the investigation, family members, neighbors and a former classmate identified Leonardo Santiago, 21, as the person who shot and killed the victim, according to the probable cause statement for his arrest.

Four days after Pantaleon was pronounced dead, his family members were sent a picture via Instagram of Pantaleon dead with an unknown person flipping their middle finger off and another picture of his mutilated body, according to the probable cause statement.

After obtaining search warrants for the users of the profile accounts, messages were reviewed, which led to the identity of two other suspects Manuel Carrasco Calderon, 21, and Jose Rodriguez, 20. All three men were all allegedly affiliated with the North Side 15th Avenue gang in Phoenix, according to court documents.

Court documents said Santiago, Carrasco Calderon and Rodriguez were involved in coming up with the plan to rob and kill Pantaleon.

Detectives determined Santiago met up with Pantaleon and killed him at the park, only to return an hour after with Carrasco Calderon, according to court documents. Pantaleon’s body was then mutilated.

When investigators spoke to Carrasco Calderon, he allegedly admitted to knowing about Santiago’s intent to kill Pantaleon.

“He admitted they discussed the murder, when, where, and how it would be done, and videos and photographs were passed around,” according to the probable cause statement.

Carrasco Calderon accused Santiago of mutilating the victim by using a knife with a brass knuckle handle, according to court documents.

The investigation also revealed the photos of Pantaleon after he was killed were sent to his family members from Rodriguez’s social media profile, according to court documents.

Has a motive been determined in the Phoenix park murder?

While detectives reviewed evidence, multiple statements were seen that appears Pantaleon could have been the victim of a hate crime.

Days after the murder, messages discussing the murder were reviewed between the suspects, according to court documents.

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

Santiago, Carrasco Calderon and Rodriguez were arrested Saturday for their alleged involvement in the homicide.

Bond was set at $2 million for Santiago and $1 million for Carrasco Calderon. They were each booked for one count of first-degree murder, one count of assisting a street gang and one count of crimes against a dead person. Bond was set at $500,000 for Rodriguez, who was booked on one count of first-degree murder and assisting a street gang.

A fourth suspect, 21-year-old Christopher Ibarra Santana, was arrested Tuesday. He was booked for first-degree murder and assisting a criminal street gang, and his bond was set at $2 million.

The investigation is ongoing.

This is an updated version of a story that was originally published on Dec. 3, 2023.

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Murder victim in Phoenix park allegedly mutilated by suspects with gang ties