Miami-based Burger King is in the news again, not because of its food, but because of a senseless murder.
Jose Reyes Mejia-Varela, the former manager of a BK located in Maryland, has pleaded guilty to the murder of Jacinta "Patty" Ayala, assistant manager at the same location.
Ayala, 32, was the mother of three and gunned down by Mejia-Varela during an early morning robbery. The former manager had snuck into the empty restaurant in order to steal money from the safe. His code had been disabled, so he apparently lay in wait, and when Ayala showed up to work, he forced her to use her code and made off with over $2300 in cash - but not before shooting Ayala dead.
Investigators were able to crack the case mostly through the use of technology. Cellphone records placed Mejia-Varela near the Burger King shortly before 5 a.m. on the day of the murder. At 5:25 a.m., security cameras caught Ayala on video at a gas station nearby. At 5:33 a.m. her code was used to open the safe.
Security footage from a nearby Roy Rogers showed a man running from the Burger King and boarding a scooter at the Roy Rogers parking lot. He seemed to be carrying something heavy. A co-worker found Ayala lying in a pool of blood and called police at 5:56 a.m.
The scooter was traced to Mejia-Valera's sister, who he tried to use as an alibi. She told police that she was asleep at the time and her cellphone records place her at home during the commission of the crime. A gun and ammunition, believed to be the same used in the murder, were found hidden beneath floorboards at Mejia-Varela's home.
The fact that there was no security footage at the Burger King and no sign of forced entry also tipped off investigators. As a former manager, Mejia-Varela knew that an access hatch on the roof would be unlocked. By climbing a garbage bin, he was able to access the hatch and enter the manager's office.
There is always an upsurge in robberies around the holidays. It takes a special kind of criminal to murder a mother of three in cold blood so close to Christmas.
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Apparently, Mejia-Varela felt the need to share his story. His cellmate approached investigators with information that Mejia-Varela shared with him behind bars.
Due to the amount of evidence against him, Mejia-Varela pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and accepted a plea bargain which sentences him to a life sentence with a chance for parole.
Said State Attorney Charlie Smith, "This was a terribly heinous, senseless murder. He did not need to kill this woman. He could have just stolen what he needed to steal and left."