Crime

Prosecutors delay death-penalty decision in ‘Top Model’ murder case

Emmanuel Rangel is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. His case is cited by sponsors of a new bill that will block those with gang ties from receiving immigration benefits
Emmanuel Rangel is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. His case is cited by sponsors of a new bill that will block those with gang ties from receiving immigration benefits

Mecklenburg prosecutors will wait at least a month before announcing whether they’ll seek the death penalty against Emmanuel Rangel and three other defendants accused in four killings in February.

Rangel, 19, was granted protective immigration status two years ago despite being included in a federal database of gang members.

Rangel, Emily Isaacs, Edward Sanchez and David Lopez were to appear in Mecklenburg Superior Court on Thursday. At that time, the district attorney’s office was scheduled to announce whether it will prosecute the defendants as capital murder cases.

Instead, prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge Bob Bell to delay the hearings of the four defendants until May 28 for more time to investigate their cases.

Death penalty cases have become rare in Mecklenburg and elsewhere in the state court system. Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray says he reserves the status for extreme crimes that shock the community. In an unrelated investigation last week, federal prosecutors in Charlotte announced death penalty cases against seven defendants. That indictment involves three killings, including two that were intended to silence testimony in an upcoming trial.

Rangel is accused of four counts of first-degree murder stemming from two attacks that were two days apart.

▪ Rosool Jaleel Harrell, 22, of Charlotte, was found fatally shot outside a Matthews hotel on Feb. 22. Another man was seriously wounded.

▪ Two days later, the bodies of Jonathan Cosme Alvarado, 23, Jusmar Isiah Gonzaga-Garcia, 21, and Mirjana Puhar, 19, were found in a home about a mile from uptown. Puhar was a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model.”

Police say the triple slaying stemmed from a dispute over drugs and that Rangel knew the victims.

Sanchez, 19, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Matthews killing, while Isaacs, 18, is accused of being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. The pair was captured in Texas.

David Lopez, 19, also is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the triple slaying. He surrendered to police in March.

Rangel became part of a Capitol Hill debate last month when congressional Republicans discovered that he received protective immigration status despite an apparent gang background. Earlier this month, immigration officials acknowledged that Rangel had been wrongly included in President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA.

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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