Man who gunned down Casa Grande teens was owed money, police say

A man who was just extradited from Texas back to Pinal County was owed money so he opened fire on a car at a Casa Grande apartment, killing two teens.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:55 PM MST
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CASA GRANDE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Court documents say the man who shot and killed two teens at a Casa Grande apartment complex last month told police he was owed $14,000 for smuggling migrants and gunned down the wrong people. Terrance Santistevan, 18, was arrested and extradited to Arizona from Texas earlier this week. The shooting left 18-year-old Leslie Cota and 17-year-old Danielle Murrieta dead on April 24.

Court paperwork says Santistevan and another man met while smuggling migrants in October 2021. Police say the unidentified man was the boyfriend of one of the victims. He told police he had hired Santistevan to “run a load” of migrants from Mexico into the U.S. and was going to pay Santistevan $2,000. Investigators say the man paid Santistevan about $1,000 but admitted he owed Santistevan money since October. Court documents say the boyfriend told officers he texted Santistevan after the shooting and said he knew it was him, but Santistevan denied being involved, saying he was in Tempe the night of the shooting.

Phone records show the boyfriend and Santistevan were calling and texting about money hours before the shooting on April 24. A group of friends, including Cota and Murrieta, were at the complex when they decided to get McDonald’s. Cota was in the frontseat of the car in the parking lot and Murrieta was about to get in when police say Santistevan drove up in his silver 2006 Chrysler 300 and started shooting. He fired off more than two dozen rounds, hitting the two. Cota died at the scene and Murrieta was rushed to the hospital, where she later died. Investigators believe Santistevan meant to shoot the boyfriend but killed the teen girl and woman instead. After the shooting, Santistevan fled to Texas.

On April 30, after receiving a tip, the U.S. Marshals Service saw Santistevan walking out of a home in Pflugerville, and he was taken into custody. According to court documents, Santistevan initially told police he was not in Casa Grande the day of the shooting and his friend had borrowed his car. However, according to court paperwork, Santistevan then admitted to police he was involved with human smuggling and claimed the boyfriend owed him $14,000 for doing “runs” for several months. He denied being involved in the shooting and said he was home all day when the shooting happened.

Police said the gun and the car involved in the shooting have not been found. Santistevan faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of drive-by shooting. He’s being held on a $750,000 secured bond.