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Phoenix gang member charged with killing gay man during sex

Police said Leonardo Santiago confessed to killing Osvaldo Castillo just days after being charged with killing and mutilating another gay man.
Five days after he was charged with killing a gay man in November, Leonardo Santiago, 21, was charged with killing a second gay Phoenix man.
Five days after he was charged with killing a gay man in November, Leonardo Santiago, 21, was charged with killing a second gay Phoenix man. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
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A suspect in the brutal killing of a gay Phoenix man in November has allegedly confessed to killing another gay man — by shooting him in the head after meeting for sex, according to police.

Leonardo Santiago, 21, was already in a Maricopa County jail on a $2 million bond for allegedly killing and mutilating 30-year-old Bernardo Pantaleon. After his Dec. 2 arrest, Phoenix police tied Santiago to the March slaying of 20-year-old Osvaldo Hernandez Castillo through an unidentified informant. Santiago confessed when investigators questioned him on Thursday, police said.

On March 20, Phoenix police responded to a call near 23rd and Dunlap avenues. Officers found Castillo dead in the driver’s seat of his car with a gunshot wound to his head, according to court documents.

Police located several shell casings at the scene, including one on the rear passenger floorboard of the vehicle near an unfurled condom.

An autopsy later revealed that Castillo was shot from behind in the head and back, according to court documents.

Police later gained access to Castillo’s cell phone and discovered a Snapchat conversation between Castillo and another person arranging to meet for sex at the location where Castillo was killed.

“It is believed the victim was engaged in a sexual encounter with a male at or around the time of his murder,” according to court documents.

After receiving a tip about Santiago’s involvement in the killing, investigators questioned him. Police said he confessed to shooting and killing the victim. He told police that he recorded the homicide with his cell phone.

Santiago claimed that another man threatened to kill him if he didn’t kill Castillo, according to court documents. He later said the motive for the shooting was “to be recognized by others in the North Side XV gang” and “for money and marijuana.” He also said he attempted to rob Castillo.

Santiago is charged with first-degree murder in Castillo’s killing.

During an initial appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court on Friday, Santiago stood expressionless as a female family member of Castillo’s family cried, asking Commissioner Lindsay Hughes not to release Santiago from jail.

“He took a part of me, and I have my family in pieces,” the family member said in a video of the hearing obtained by Phoenix New Times. “I don’t want the death penalty for him, but I want justice and for him not to be released on parole.”

John Uglietta, a prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, called Santiago a risk to public safety who is likely to re-offend and flee if he’s released from jail. He asked Hughes to set bond at $2 million. Hughes granted Uglietta's request.
click to enlarge Christopher Ibarra, Jose Rodriguez, Leonardo Santiago, Manuel Carrasco Calderon
Christopher Ibarra, Jose Rodriguez, Leonardo Santiago and Manuel Carrasco Calderon are all charged in the killing of Bernardo Pantaleon, who was found dead and mutilated near a Phoenix park on Nov. 26.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Leonardo Santiago charged with killing second gay man

The bond is in addition to the $2 million bond Santiago received for his charges in the November killing. Santiago and three other alleged members of the North Side 15th Avenue gang have been accused of involvement in Pantaleon’s death.

Pantaleon was found dead at about 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 26 at a park near 7th and Cinnabar avenues. He suffered from gunshot wounds and significant bodily trauma, according to police. The killers returned to Pantaleon’s body to mutilate it and send photos to the victim’s family, police said.

According to court records, Santiago and others plotted Pantaleon’s murder in an online chat and shared photos of Pantaleon’s bloody corpse. Some members of the chat “made derogatory remarks regarding the victim’s sexuality” and commented about “homosexuals not being allowed on the northside,” according to police and court documents.

Santiago allegedly has confessed to murdering Pantaleon and to returning with another gang member to mutilate the corpse, which was done with “a knife with a brass knuckle handle,” court records said.

Also charged in Pantaleon’s death are Manuel Carrasco Calderon, 21; Jose Rodriguez, 20; and Christopher Ibarra, 21.

Pantaleon’s family set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for funeral expenses. More than $7,500 of the $10,000 goal was raised by Dec. 14. A car wash fundraiser to benefit Pantaleon’s family was held in the parking lot of Charlie’s, an LGBTQ+ nightclub earlier this month. 
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