The Case of the Wily Coyote

Getting smuggled into the U.S. is a dangerous game, even when the smuggler's just like family

The detective confers briefly with Jack Ballentine, telling him that federal authorities could charge Abelardo with murder because Margarita died while being smuggled into the States.

But Ballentine doesn't want to go that route -- he wants Abelardo to face charges in the state system, not federally. He asks Shallue to go back in and work Abelardo harder:

"Tell him we pretty much know everything and to stop beating around the bush. Tell him everybody knows it. Tell him to work with you or you won't get a raise, I don't care. And ask him to explain how his fingerprints got on her neck."

Ballentine is referring to Abelardo's admission to fellow coyote (and assault victim) Sergio Santos about the girl's being strangled.

It falls within the rules of the police interrogation game, fair or not.

"I want you to try to remember," Shallue tells Abelardo a few minutes later. "I want to know that she didn't suffer a lot. I have your fingerprints on her neck. Do you understand me?"

Back in the monitoring room, Ballentine talks to the television set: "Stay with him, Johnny. Don't lose him here. He's weakening."

After a series of "I don't remembers" and "I don't knows," Abelardo Jarquin-Lopez gives it all up.

He confesses that he'd choked Margarita with both hands after she tried to escape his amorous clutches in Room 121.

"Was it inside the bathroom when you grabbed her by the neck?" Shallue asks.

"It was inside."

"Was she dead?"

"Yes."

"In your hands?"

"Yes."

Abelardo says Margarita fell into the tub after she was dead.

Shallue asks how her jeans and panties had ended up on the floor next to the beds. Without elaborating, Abelardo says that happened as he'd chased Margarita toward the bathroom.

He now adds that she'd broken his nose with her fist when he tried to rape her. That, he explains, had sent him into a rage.

Abelardo says he'd wiped off his bloody nose with the pillow case and towels -- so that'swhere the blood came from -- before leaving the room.

"Do you feel like a weight has now been lifted?" Shallue asks the killer.

"No," Abelardo says. "I have to pay for what I did."

Shallue thanks him for his honesty and leaves.

Moments later, Jack Ballentine and Jason Schechterle greet the detective with high-fives and attaboys.

Someone points out that Shallue's face is deeply flushed.

He gestures over to Ballentine, one of the Phoenix department's most storied detectives.

"I was more nervous knowing that he was watching me than actually interviewing that guy," he says.


A county grand jury indicted Abelardo Jarquin-Lopez on one count of first-degree felony murder, with the underlying charge being the attempted rape of Margarita Parada. He's being held at the Maricopa County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond. Abelardo has pleaded innocent. No trial date has been set.

Miriam Frascari translated several interviews for this story.

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