San Juan murder suspect in federal custody on human smuggling charges

San Juan murder suspect in federal custody on human smuggling charges
3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago Saturday, June 22 2024 Jun 22, 2024 June 22, 2024 1:20 PM June 22, 2024 in News - Local

A 47-year-old man identified as a suspect in a San Juan murder investigation is now facing federal human smuggling charges, court records show.

Samuel Uvalle Sr. was charged with murder in connection with the May 7 beating death of Juan Carlos Hernandez De Leon, whose body was later found inside a barrel that was buried in Edinburg.

Federal court records show Uvalle Sr. and his son — Samuel Uvalle Jr. — were each indicted on three human smuggling charges. Both men are in federal custody.

David Lindenmuth, an attorney representing Uvalle Sr. on the human smuggling charges, confirmed to Channel 5 News his client is also facing state murder charges in connection with De Leon’s death.

Uvalle Jr. pleaded not guilty to the human smuggling charges and remains in federal custody.

Uvalle Sr. appeared in federal court on Friday, where bond was denied, court records show.

A total of five people — including Uvalle Sr. — have been arrested in connection with De Leon’s death.

According to affidavits obtained by Channel 5 News, De Leon was fatally beaten at a San Juan home located at the 1900 block of Morningset Drive.

Four individuals — identified as Monica Victoria Gomez, Jesus Grijalva, Uvalle Sr. and Roberto Salas — were identified as individuals who participated in the fatal assault.

De Leon’s body was found on May 17 buried in Edinburg.

Two other people — Jennifer Jane Snider and Alejandro Cantu — were arrested on charges of tampering with physical evidence after allegedly helping dispose of the victim’s cell phone and helping bury the body, respectively.

The criminal complaint against Uvalle Jr. identified him and his father as the caretaker of a San Juan stash house where six undocumented migrants were being held.

According to the complaint, a migrant from Guatemala said he heard someone being beaten at one point during their stay.

On May 18, Uvalle Jr. told the migrants to leave the residence because his father was wanted on a murder charge, and “everything is screwed.”

The migrants went to a nearby restaurant, where law enforcement officers conducting surveillance on the home took them into custody. They later arrested Uvalle Jr., the complaint stated.

Federal court records show Uvalle Sr. is scheduled to be arraigned on the human smuggling charges on Tuesday, June 25.

The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office continues searching for Roberto Salas in connection with De Leon’s death. 

Those with any information linked to Salas' location are urged to contact the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office at 956-383-8114.

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