Five men charged in slayings plead not guilty

Published 3:00 pm Monday, November 3, 2008

Five men charged in the brutal slayings of five men at a north Shelby County apartment in August pleaded not guilty Monday in an arraignment hearing before Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves.

Alejandros Castaneda, 31, Juan Francisco Castaneda, 25, Christopher Scott Jones, 40, Jaime Duenas-Rodriguez 22, and Derrick Renone Green, 22, are charged with two counts each of capital murder in connection with the deaths of five men whose bodies were found Aug. 20 at Cahaba Lakes apartments off U.S. 280.

The victims — Angel Horacio Vega-Gonzalez, 23, Gustavo Vega-Gonzalez, 24, Ezequiel Rebollar-Terevan, 23, Jaime Echeverra, 30 and Armando Ibarra Mendoza, 31 — were beaten, electrocuted and slashed.

Authorities said the slayings were revenge killings for more than $400,000 in drug cartel money.

As the defendants entered their pleas, some family members sobbed from their seats in the courtroom.

An attorney representing Juan Francisco Castaneda asked the judge to issue a gag order, arguing the defendants won’t receive a fair trial because media coverage has cast them in an unfavorable light.

Reeves denied the request, saying the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is required by law to release public records.

It is unlikely the defendants will stand trial within the next 12 months, according to prosecutors.

The defendants will continue to be held in the Shelby County Jail without bond.