Four jailed in the deaths of 5 men

COLUMBIANA, AL The preliminary cause of death was the slashed throats or suffocation, authorities said Tuesday.

Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry described the deaths as contract killings that were drug-related. The slayings apparently were carried out by a drug organization over missing money that totaled between $400,000 and $450,000, he said.

Arrested were Alejandros Castaneda, 31, Juan Francisco Castaneda, 25, and Christopher Scott Jones, 40, all with Birmingham addresses. Also charged was 22-year-old Jaime Rodriguez of San Antonio. All were held without bond. They will be assigned lawyers at a court hearing scheduled within 72 hours of their arrests.

A capital murder conviction could bring a death sentence or life in prison without parole.

Federal officials were working with local investigators to determine the immigration status of the victims and the suspects. Curry declined to elaborate on how the victims were tortured by electrical shock.

The bodies of the five were found at an apartment off U.S. 280 in Shelby County. They apparently were killed Aug. 17, but the bodies were found by a deputy responding to a call on Aug. 20.

Four of the victims have been identified as Armando Lopez, 24; Ezequiel Rebollar-Perrban, 23; Jaime Echeverria, 30; and Angel Horacio Vega-Gonzalez, 23. The name of the fifth victim will be released once relatives are notified, coroner Diana Hawkins said.

Lopez, listed in court records as a transient, was charged June 1 with cocaine trafficking in Birmingham and released June 24 from jail on $100,000 bond. His bond initially was set at $1 million.

Attorney Tim Arnold, who represented Lopez in the Jefferson County drug case, declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

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