PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – A Phoenix man is facing a charge of first-degree murder in connection to human remains that were found in a sewer in July 2016. Police arrested Francisco Antonio Fuentes, 25, Monday morning. Although the skeletal remains were discovered in the area 55th Avenue and Baseline Road on July 20, 2016, police say the roots of the case go back to early 2015.
According to public court documents, the victim, Victor Manuel Carrillo-Gamez, was last seen when he went to visit Fuentes in the area of 16th and Oak streets on March 18, 2015. Later that day, the Phoenix Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire. Police said the vehicle belonged to Carrillo-Gamez, but he was nowhere to be found.
Police said the Carrillo-Gamez's girlfriend asked Fuentes about him the next day. Fuentes reportedly told her that he had not seen him. On March 21, 2015, police say Fuentes "fled to Mexico and told his girlfriend and family he had to leave because he had killed somebody." According to detectives, Fuentes' later told them that she saw Fuentes on March 19, the day after the vehicle fire, and "noticed the hair on [his] leg was singed off.
More than a year went by before Carrillo-Gamez's skeletal remains turned up in a City of Phoenix sewer. A week after the discovery, the Maricopa County Medical Examiner confirmed Carrillo-Gamez's identity.
Arizona's Family spoke to several neighbors in the area who have lived there since at least 2016.
"Oh my God I remember that! That's crazy because I distinctly remember that happening," Emily Belt said. "It was a little bit scary when we heard that they found remains in there. But we're like big crime show watchers so at the same time I'm kind of intrigued -- wondering what's happening. Is this new or is it old?"
Marlene (no last name given) told Arizona's Family her family was building their home at the time.
"We [saw] it on news, so we caught it and we're like, 'Hey, that's our house and that's our neighborhood! What's gonna happen?!" she said.
She hadn't heard anything about the case since then, until our crews knocked on her door Tuesday.
"It's creepy. It gave me chills," she said. "As soon as you told me it just gave me chills."
Police are investigating after human remains were found in a sewer near 55th Avenue and Baseline Road in Phoenix. Homicide detectives are on the scene.
In the days following the gruesome discovery, which came after a resident complained about sewer water backing up, investigators said the bones were too large to have been flushed down a toilet. Police did not know how the remains came to be in the sewer line but mentioned access via manholes and cleanout caps at neighborhood homes.
"There was enough skeletal remains that they were able to use that and then identify who he was. I believe they used dental records through the office of the medical examiner," Sgt. Tommy Thompson with the Phoenix Police Department said.
Police said GPS data from cell phones belonging to Carrillo-Gamez and to Fuentes put them "in the same general area" on March 18, 2015. Police said Fuentes' phone also pinged "in the same area of where [the victim's] remains were found." Those two locations are about 15 miles apart.
Phoenix police say human remains found in wastewater sewer line included bones and likely were too large to have been flushed down a toilet.
Police say DNA from the burned vehicle in 2015 and items recovered from the sewer in 2016 belonged to Carrillo-Gamez. At this point, detectives have not said what they believe happened between Fuentes and Carrillo-Gamez. Also, it's not clear when Fuentes returned to the U.S. His arrest on suspicion of murder comes just shy of five years since Carrillo-Gamez was last seen alive.
A judge set a cash-only appearance bond of $500,000.
March 18, 2015 – Carrillo-Gamez last seen going to visit Fuentes. Carrillo-Gamez's vehicle burns.
March 19, 2015 – Carrillo-Gamez's girlfriend asks Fuentes about him. Fuentes' girlfriend notice hair singed off his leg.
March 21, 2015 – Fuentes allegedly flees to Mexico, telling people he "had killed somebody."
July 20, 2016 – Skeletal remains found in Phoenix sewer near 55th Avenue and Baseline Road.
July 27, 2016 – Medical examiner uses dental records ID victim.
March 9, 2020 – Police arrest Fuentes.
Victor Manuel Carrillo-Gamez