An autistic 13 year-old girl has been beheaded after becoming an unwitting witness to her grandmother's murder. Mariah Lopez was living with her grandmother, who was said to be a drug dealer, in Southern America and the pair were on a trip from Georgia to Alabama as the older woman, Oralia Mendoza tried to move a quarter kilo of meth between the two locations. Mendoza apparently grew nervous and texted a friend asking if they could look after the teen so she was removed from the situation. Mendoza is said to have fallen in with the prolific Sinaloa cartel, dating Yoni Aguilar and also having an ex-boyfriend Israel Palomino in the gang. The pair found the texts on her phone worrying for Mariah's safety and decided to kill both of them.
Mariah was a gifted and intelligent student, on the honor roll at her school, and had to be identified by dental records after her body was discovered by a farmer in his field. The gang members reportedly woke the pair up on the morning of June 4 and asked them to leave their home in Hunstville, Alabama to be taken to a safer location under the cartel's protection. Instead, they were driven Moon cemetery in Owen’s Cross. where Palomino is alleged to have stabbed Mendoza multiple times, before leaving her to bleed to death among headstones. Aguilar later told officials Mariah was watching from the car so they took the decision to kill her too so there were no loose ends.
The girl's dismembered remains were found three days later. Aguilar and Palomino have since been charged with two counts of capital murder. Mariah’s mother is said to walked in to a sheriff’s office after officials had released information on the body to admit that her daughter was missing and fit the description. Investigators then connected Aguilar and Palomino to the scene of the crime using cellphone records. Israel Palomino is said to have stabbed Mendoza to death as Mariah watched from a car. They subsequently found two knives – believed to be the murder weapons – as well as blood in Palomino’s car. The Sinaloa cartel is reported to be North America’s biggest drug trafficking operation, delivering shipments to the east coast via New York.