On January 22, 2017 the bodies of Jonathan Rodríguez Cabanne's mother and stepfather were discovered in a white Special Edition Honda CRV in Madero, Tamaulipas. On March 13, a complaint was filed against Jonathan for parricide and qualified homicide, and on March 21 he was linked to the process. On November 13, 2019 he was convicted and shortly thereafter sentenced to 50 years in prison. But a closer examination of the case reveals serious flaws in the state's investigation.
The autopsies reportedly determined that the victims had been dead for approximately 36 to 48 hours from the time they were discovered and showed no additional perimortem injuries or signs of a struggle. A domestic employee told investigators the last time they had seen Mrs. Cabanne alive was on January 20.
Curiously, no evidence was collected during the state's first investigation of the Cabanne's home on January 23, the same day the bodies were discovered. In fact, photographs presented before a judge at one point showed nothing out of the ordinary. On February 27, a second search of the house miraculously found fiber, hair and blood evidence, bullet holes and bullet casings, and apparent signs of a violent struggle with the bedroom, bathroom, curtains, work table and floor in complete disarray. How all of this was missed during the first inspection—documented photographically—is unclear.
According to the prosecution, Jonathan's mother, Maria Guadalupe Cabanne Lima, had confronted her son at the family's home in the Universidad Poniente neighborhood around 7:20 pm on January 20 about money he had supposedly stolen from her office.
After this happened, prosecutors claimed that Jonathan's sister, Yehila Rodríguez Cabanne, was on her way to an aerobic dance class with her father (Jonathan's stepfather, Jaime César López Hernández), when they received a call from their upset mother who told them on speakerphone to return home because she intended to kick Jonathan out of the house. The prosecution alleged that Jonathan's stepfather had dropped the sister off at the dance class and returned to the family's home.
Sometime in between the call and when the stepfather returned home, the state claimed that Jonathan, enraged over the incident, had gotten a gun and fatally shot his mother once in the head. When the stepfather arrived, the prosecution claimed that Jonathan fatally shot him once in the head and then hid both the bodies in another room with the door closed.
According to Jonathan's sister, after Jonathan had just murdered his mother and stepfather, he then picked her up from the dance class and allegedly told her their parents had given him another chance. The sister claimed the door to their mother's room was locked so she took a shower in Jonathan's bathroom and then went for a walk with friends. It must have been a really long walk because it's unclear if she ever returned home over the course of the next 2 days.
Among the evidence presented by the prosecution was video footage from the Centro de Comando, Control, Comunicaciones y Cómputo (C4), a network of security cameras throughout the city. The state exhibited video footage from the C4 and private security cameras which showed a man similar in "physique, clothing and complexion" to Jonathan, whose face cannot be seen, driving at approximately 8:00 AM on January 21 at the height of plaza Jalisco to Monterrey avenue and turning at CBTA 12. A Hyundai Elantra can be seen following the Honda CRV in the video footage.
Prosecutors claimed that investigators interviewed Jonathon's brother, Gerson Rodríguez Cabanne, and exhibited the video footage to him, from which he was able to identify the subject as Jonathan based on the subject's "physique, clothing and complexion". On March 13, the brother presented a complaint to the state identifying the subject driving the Honda CRV as his brother, Jonathan.
But there are several problems with this. First, the footage from the C4 and private security cameras was obtained illegally without a warrant and without proper documentation of how the evidence was processed and handled through the chain of custody. A judge later ruled to exclude the evidence from the prosecution's case on these grounds.
Second, the subject driving the Honda CRV in the video was unidentifiable because the individual's face is never seen. The subject was identified by Jonathan's brother based on physique, clothing and complexion, but a family photograph shows two brothers who look remarkably similar in physique and complexion. Specifically, the identification was supposedly based on the sweatshirt and watch the subject was wearing in the video footage. Later in the trial, the defense exhibited a video of the sweatshirt in question worn by a friend of Gerson.
The keystone to the prosecution's case was the testimony of a 16-year-old identified only as CUS, who apparently had worked with Jonathon for approximately three years prior to the incident. Prosecutors claimed that on March 15, CUS had voluntarily come in to give a statement to investigators upon learning of the complaint against Jonathan. In their first interview with the 16-year-old, CUS was forced to testify without the presence of a guardian or a psychologist.
But there's more to the story. According to interviews with Jonathan's family, CUS was asked three times if Jonathan had been responsible for the murders and CUS denied it every time. According to Jonathan's uncle, CUS was drugged and even beaten until he was nearly unconscious to try to get a confession out of him. They even threatened to kill him which is why the video of the first CUS interrogation was never shown during the trial.
The prosecution alleged that according to testimony from CUS, Jonathan had called him at around 2:30 AM on January 21 and asked him to come to the family's house because he needed a favor. The 16-year-old claimed that Jonathan specified to take a motorcycle there and park it several blocks away.
According to the state, when CUS arrived at the house, he claimed that he saw what he assumed based on the complexion was the stepfather's body with a bag over his head in the garage. The 16-year-old claimed that Jonathan sent him to look for cleaning supplies, and when he returned, the body had been moved into the truck which was closed, presumably with the mother's body already in the vehicle.
The prosecution claimed that CUS said that Jonathan told him, "me los troné"/ "I clapped them", and CUS proceeded to help him clean up the scene of the double homicide. After they had cleaned the house—apparently pretty well since investigators recovered no evidence and somehow missed the bullet holes in the wall and casings on the ground during their first investigation—CUS claimed that Jonathan took the truck out of the house and parked it a few blocks away.
According to the prosecution, CUS claimed he slept at the Cabanne residence until morning when CUS said Jonathan drove the CRV with the 16-year-old following him in the Hyundai Elantra to the Los Castores neighborhood where they left the vehicle and the bodies on Castor Azul street.
According to the 16-year-old, Jonathan allegedly threatened that if CUS told anyone what he had seen, he would kill his family. When he learned about the complaint against Jonathan, he supposedly decided to come forward.
But according to Jonathan's uncle, CUS was taken by Jonathan's brother Gerson to testify against Jonathan and he believes that CUS was threatened with death by Gerson and the stepfather's brother, José Guadalupe López Hernández, along with several gunmen. According to Jonathan's uncle, the same thing has happened to him and a similar incident happened to his mother, all of which had been reported in complaints to the authorities.
The March 20 hearing was attended by journalists and Jonathan's siblings, Gerson and Yehila, as well as the stepfather's brother, José Guadalupe López Hernández.
At the hearing, the prosecution presented 30 pieces of evidence in support of their case which were thoroughly documented by the media who subsequently reported it to the public.
The defense presented arguments that evidence was obtained illegally without proper adherence to the chain of custody by signing for and documenting how evidence was processed in the investigation.
The defense alleged that the evidence recovered at the scene over a month after the first search had in fact been planted since it was never documented initially. During the first inspection of the house immediately after the murders, the house was examined thoroughly and tested for serological evidence with luminol, but no blood evidence was found. In between the first inspection on January 23 and the second inspection on February 27, Jonathan, Yehila and Gerson continued living in the house. During that time, Yehila and Gerson even had parties on several occasions at the house. Aside from the problem with the scene having been thoroughly contaminated, the suggestion that bullet holes, bullet casings, blood and fiber evidence and signs of a violent struggle went unnoticed during the first inspection but were found in a second inspection is absurd on its face. The case should have never proceeded beyond such an obvious fabrication.
The defense argued that testimony from CUS had been a violation of due process because he had not been with a parent or guardian and that the testimony was obtained in violation of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. They argued that a sodium rhodizonate test for gun powder residue on Jonathan's hands had not been performed and that the murder weapon had not been presented since no gunpowder was found in the chamber of the weapon exhibited by the prosecution.
The prosecution prohibited the defense from presenting two witnesses which could provide an alibi for Jonathan at the time that the state claimed that the murders had taken place. The night that the prosecution alleged that the murders had occurred, Jonathan was at the movie theater with a young woman who was not his girlfriend. The manager of the cinema also testified that Jonathan was there at the time and Jonathan also had the ticket stubs. Ironically, Jonathan's brother Gerson claimed that he was in Monterrey at the time of the murders but no evidence confirming the purported alibi was ever produced, although the state's investigation never pursued this avenue.
The state's case was based entirely on the testimony of Jonathan's brother and sister, the coerced testimony of the 16-year-old self-described co-conspirator and evidence which inexplicably was overlooked during the initial search of the house.
Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of the state, linking Jonathan to the case based on the testimony from the 16-year-old. A moment of tension in the courtroom was noted by the journalist present at the hearing, who described the siblings sighing with relief when the ruling was issued linking Jonathan to the process. After the ruling, the siblings and their step-uncle, José Guadalupe López Hernández, reportedly hugged and thanked the prosecutor.
In the story published by El Sol de Tampico about the process hearing on March 20, 159 words were written about the defense's arguments. The prosecution's case was elaborated in 1150 words in the story.
By prohibiting the testimony of the defense's witnesses while allowing the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses, the state's case became the predominant narrative in the media and Jonathan was accused without the opportunity to present his side of the story. Jonathan's first attorney even gave a statement in a well-known local publication which was taken down from the website.
Jonathan's first attorney had gotten a ruling to exclude illegally obtained and mishandled C4 and security footage used to file the initial complaint. When Jonathan could no longer afford the attorney's price of $50,000 per hearing, he was forced to find new and less experienced representation. A different judge later ruled to allow the excluded evidence.
After nearly three years of imprisonment and hearings, Jonathan was convicted in November 2019 and shortly thereafter sentenced to 50 years for the murders of his mother and stepfather.
But there's much more to this story. According to separate interviews with Jonathan's uncle, Jorgé Cabanne Lima and a friend of Jonathan's familiar with the case, Alma Mia Guerra Galarza, Jonathan's parents were killed and Jonathan falsely implicated in a scheme involving bribery of officials with the state prosecutor's office, and a plot involving Jonathan's siblings, Gerson and Yehila, and the stepfather's brother, José Guadalupe López Hernández, to eliminate Jonathan in order to get the family's money after the murders.
José López is an engineer with PEMEX's Exploration and Production subsidiary and a shareholder in several support service companies specializing in construction, marketing and sanitation in the Poza Rica, Veracruz area. José's brother Jaime was the majority shareholder and administrator of one of those companies, JC Saneamientos Ecológicos Industriales SA de CV, before he was murdered along with Jonathan's mother.
In addition to lucrative contracts with companies like Drake Mesa, Forbes, Schlumberger, Tarco, and Waterford, the support service companies in which José was a shareholder were also involved in money laundering and other illegal activities. According to Jorgé Cabanne Lima, José had links to organized crime and was thought to have been involved in a kidnapping of Jaime and another man in 2012.
After some trouble in Poza Rica, José relocated to Reynosa where he again supposedly became involved with organized crime. In Reynosa, José allegedly had an employee executed and also requested a hit on Jonathan. The request was turned down which supposedly led to the accusation against Jonathan for the murders of his mother and stepfather in order to get access to the family's assets.
According to Jonathan's uncle and friend, the prosecutor in the case, Carmen Cruz Marquina, as well as her husband at the time, Gerardo Rodríguez Vega, were given $250,000 in exchange for their help fabricating a case against Jonathan. In total, the conspirators allegedly spent over $2 million on bribes and fees for witnesses, experts and officials.
Jesús Mancilla Catete is a politician with the PES party and the former mayoral candidate for Altamira with ties to Jaime and the current governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. There are also rumors that he, like so many politicians in Tamaulipas, may have ties to organized crime. Before Jaime and Jonathan's mother were murdered, Jesús allegedly stole machinery owned by Jaime from the construction companies they had. Jonathan's friends and family believe that the relationship between Jesús Mancilla Catete and Cabeza de Vaca may be part of the reason why Jonathan was singled out to fall for a crime he did not commit.
If Yehila and Gerson were affected by the murders of both their parents and their family being torn apart, they did not show it publicly. On social media, both of the siblings posted photos of themselves partying and traveling. Jonathan assumed the responsibility for managing business and family matters until Gerson filed the complaint against him. In fact, of the three siblings, Jonathan was the only one who worked.
In an exchange between Yehila, Gerson and Jorgé caught on security footage during a dispute over their late grandmother's property, Yehila seemingly threatens Jonathan's uncle Jorgé saying, "sigues tu", "you're next".
Gerson has also posted some interesting things on Twitter expressing resentment towards his family, gratitude to an unspecified uncle, and hinting at problems with managing the money he inherited, among other things.
Jonathan remains in prison in Altamira. According to his friend Alma Mia Guerra, Jonathan is not doing well after spending more than three and a half years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Despite the nightmarish circumstances, he maintains hope that the truth will eventually be made known and that justice will be done for his mother and stepfather's murders. Despite having lost nearly everything, he still has the love and support of family and friends who know the truth.
Dedicated to Guadalupe Cabanne Lima, Jaime César López, and Jonathan Rodríguez Cabanne. No has sido olvidado.
With information from interviews with Alma Mia Guerra Galarza, Jorgé Cabanne Lima, El Sol de Tampico, Red Metropolitana, Project Mayhem