FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ)– A Burger King employee is murdered in Frederick. Now, police say the seven-month search for her killer is over.
Weijia Jiang explains the suspect faces federal charges, too. That’s because at the time of the murder, police say he was in the country illegally.
On March 18, the Burger King on Frederick’s East Patrick Street was a bloody crime scene. Officers arrived to find the assistant manager, 32-year-old Jacinta “Patty” Ayala, shot to death.
Now, police say it was at the hands of her former co-worker, 21-year-old Jose Reyes Mejia-Varela. On Friday, they announced a slew of charges against him, including first-degree murder.
“There wasn’t like we had an eyewitness saying he did it,” Lt. Clark Pennington of the Frederick County Police. “This was a who-done-it, putting the pieces together. Our detectives did that.”
While looking for a killer, detectives also uncovered unsettling details about Mejia-Varela.
In June 2009, he was deported from Frederick to El Salvador, following an attempted robbery conviction. But at some point after that, federal agents say he snuck back in.
“Everybody I know is up in arms about it, and there’s a lot that needs to be done,” Vernon Eyler of Frederick said.
Police say it was after Mejia-Varela entered the U.S illegally for the second time he assumed a new identity and a job at Burger King. They say he had been laid off for several months when he came back to rob it.
“Hit close to home,” Tracy Locke said. “I lived in Frederick seven years, that’s why I moved out to the country.”
Police say Mejia-Varela and Ayala worked at the Burger King together in the past. They don’t know if he was targeting her, or if he was just out to get cash.
In a statement Ayala’s family said: “Patty was a loving mother to her three children, girlfriend, sister and friend. Today, we are grateful for the news of the arrest, however, the pain of losing Patty is still very real and fresh.”
Next week, Mejia-Varela will be sentenced in federal court for illegally re-entering the country after being deported. Then, Frederick police will serve an arrest warrant.
Mejia-Varela also faces armed robbery, assault and theft charges.