Emmanuel Jesus Rangel spent less than a minute in a Mecklenburg County courtroom on Friday, or about 15 seconds for each person he is accused of killing.
The 19-year-old Charlotte man faces four first-degree murder charges linked to deaths in separate Mecklenburg County locations this week. Each count carries a punishment of life imprisonment without parole or death, depending on what prosecutors decide to pursue.
While the first appearance of the teenager was brief, it was also dramatic. The family of Jusmar Isiah Gonzaga-Garcia, 21, one of the men Rangel is accused of killing, filled the third row in District Judge Karen Eudy-Williams’ courtroom.
After the hearing, as Rangel (pronounced RON-hel) was about to be led out a door by deputies, he appeared to turn and face Gonzaga-Garcia’s family a few feet away. His gaze lingered – police say Rangel knew all his victims.
After Rangel disappeared, Gonzaga-Garcia’s family hurried from the courtroom, several of them crying heavily. Two women fell into each other’s arms sobbing before reaching the lobby. Outside the courthouse, they declined to comment.
The week has been a homicidal one. On Sunday, police say Rosool Jaleel Harrell, 22, of Charlotte, was gunned down in a car outside a Matthews hotel near Independence Boulevard.
On Tuesday, police discovered the bodies of Gonzaga-Garcia, Jonathan Cosme Alvarado, 23, and Mirjana Puhar, 19, in a home about a mile north of uptown. Last year, Puhar was a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” and in an interview with the Observer said she had big dreams – and a bad habit of choosing the wrong friends.
Two other Charlotte teenagers have been charged in connection with Harrell’s death. They are Edward Sanchez, 19, and Emily Ann Isaacs, 18. The pair were arrested Tuesday in Texas, about 1,000 miles from Charlotte, some four hours after the three bodies were found.
Sanchez is accused of first-degree murder; Isaacs, of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Both await extradition.
Up to now, the three suspects had only minor criminal histories, according to public records. Rangel and Isaacs both had misdemeanor drug charges dismissed in Mecklenburg; Sanchez spent 30 days in jail for a similar charge in Texas.
Rangel was arrested early Wednesday. He will be back in the same courtroom on March 11 for a bond hearing.
On March 15, he faces a probable cause hearing, during which more details of the case could be revealed. Research Maria David contributed.