Third suspect arrested in doctor's death

September 30, 2009 9:37:19 AM PDT
We have the latest developments on the investigation into the murder of a prominent Houston doctor. A third suspect in the case is now in an Austin County jail after being arrested here in Houston late last night. Dr. Jorge Mario Gonzalez was murdered on August 22. The 56-year-old Gonzalez was ambushed at his ranch in Belleville.

The third suspect in this case, Misael Santollo, was arrested overnight here in Houston and transferred over to the Austin County Jail in the early hours of this morning.

Santollo, 18, was hiding out at a relative's apartment in west Houston last night when he was discovered by the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders task force. He was taken into custody without incident.

Texas Rangers say his head was shaved as he tried to conceal his identity. The Houston Police and Austin County Sheriff's Office investigators were also on hand for his arrest and he was eventually transported back to the Austin County Jail. He's charged with murder and was denied bond.

Gonzalez' ranch hand was injured in the ambush, and Gonzalez's wife and young son hid in a closet from the attackers.

Two other suspects, Cristobal Cerna, 23, and Moises Cerna, 18, brothers who were related to the ranch hand, were arrested last week.

No doubt investigators have already gotten a chance to talk with Santollo to see what he'll tell them, if anything, about this crime, specifically the motive for it. We have calls into law enforcement and we'll continue to update you as new information become available.

Story background

Investigators say Dr. Jorge Mario Gonzalez, his wife and a ranch hand were attacked by four men when they arrived at Gonzalez's ranch on Saturday, August 19. Dr. Gonzalez was killed and the ranch hand was shot and injured, while Gonzalez's wife and young son hid from the killers.

"We were able to link both these brothers to the crime scene," said Capt. Freeman Martin of the Texas Rangers. "(The doctor) was assaulted as he approached the residence. He was able to enter the residence. There were three suspects at the ranch prior to his arrival. They were wearing masks and gloves.

"We believe the doctor entered the residence first. He was able to obtain a handgun and attempted to defend his family.

"At least two of the three suspects at the house had handguns and they exchanged gunshots with the doctor. Dr. Gonzalez was shot and died at the scene."

While hiding with her baby, Dr. Gonzalez's wife was reportedly on the phone with 911 operators during the incident.

For a week, investigators had no suspects, then an irregularity. A state trooper captured a white pickup on his dash cam as it left the area near the ranch after the shooting. The brothers, officials say, tried to cover their tracks.

"We discovered the license plate on the truck had been renewed on Monday and new plates were obtained even though the old tags had not expired. We also discovered that this Ford pickup was registered to the stepfather of the ranch hand," said Capt. Martin.

Investigators zeroed in on the ranch hand's brothers, the Cernas, who often drove the pickup. Though authorities won't reveal the link, they say there is one, but the motive is still unclear.

"We do not believe the doctor owed any money. We do not believe he was involved with any foul play. We are collecting facts, and I hate to speculate on a motive," said Capt. Martin.

At this point, police don't believe the ranch hand was involved. He is still hospitalized.

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