Raleigh man, teen also charged after man found fatally injured in cemetery

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Two more people — a 19-year-old man and a juvenile — were charged after a man was found fatally injured in a Raleigh cemetery Friday night.

Maria Pena-Echeverria, 18, was arrested Saturday and charged with murder in James Taylor’s death.

On Tuesday, Raleigh police announced that 19-year-old Johnathan Daniel Villanueva-Galer was also charged with murder and an unidentified 16-year-old was also in custody.

Johnathan Daniel Villanueva-Galer (Raleigh/Wake CCBI)

According to a 911 call, an N.C. State employee reported seeing people run from a cemetery and finding blood on the ground. Officers responded to the cemetery around 10 p.m. Friday.

They found 69-year-old Taylor suffering from serious injuries. Police didn’t say what kind of injuries the man sustained but said he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

In the 911 call released Tuesday by Raleigh police, the N.C. State employee said he went to the cemetery to check on animals, which is routine for him.

“I work down here for the N.C. State lab and when I got here, two cars pulled away,” the caller said.

He told the dispatcher that three people ran by his car when he pulled up with one of them flipping over a fence.

“I don’t know if we was scared or inebriated,” the caller said.

The three ran to two separate vehicles, an extended cab pick-up truck that was lifted and an older model brown or blue four-door sedan, and left the scene toward Reedy Creek Road.

The caller reported finding clothes on the ground which led him to at first believe the individuals were “messing around” in the cemetery.

But he also found blood leading in to the cemetery.

After being arrested over the weekend, Pena-Echaverria appeared before a Wake County judge on Tuesday where she was appointed a public defender. The judge told her she faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty if convicted.

Her next court date is slated for June 21 at 9 a.m. She will remain behind bars without bond.

Maria Pena-Echaverria in court on Tuesday.

Villanueva-Galer is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Police said they are not releasing the cause of death at this time because they do not want to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

The cemetery is difficult to spot, and adjacent to Schenck Forest. It’s located a few miles from N.C. State’s main campus, but because it’s technically on university property, an emergency alert was sent to students.

Taylor’s friends said he was well-known and loved among the community that flies model planes in the Triangle.

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