December 8, 2023
Fourth Suspect Arrested in Connection with Gay Phoenix Man's Murder, Mutilation
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Police in Phoenix, Arizona have arrested a fourth suspect in the case of a gay man's shooting death and the mutilation of his body. Christopher Ibarra, 21, was apprehended on Dec. 6, local news source AZFamily reported.
Bernardo Pantaleon was reportedly tortured, robbed, and shot repeatedly. After his death, his corpse was mutilated with a knife. But the perpetrators showed even more cruelty, sending photos of Pantaleon's abused body to his family.
As previously reported, three suspects – Manuel Carrasco-Calderon and Leonardo Santiago, both 21, and Jose Rodriguez, 20 – were taken into custody Dec. 1, after Pantaleon's nude body was found in a park on Nov. 26.
Several days later, Pantaleon's family received the horrific photos via social media. Investigators traced those photos back to a social media account belonging to one of the suspects and, from there, uncovered messages in which the suspects, who are reportedly members of a gang, conspired to commit the crimes.
Like the others, Ibarra faces murder charges. No hate crimes charges have been brought in the case, however, despite social media jubilation on the part of the suspects over having killed a gay man and discussions about murdering other LGBTQ+ people.
Members of Pantaleon's family decried the lack of hate crimes charges against the suspects.
"It's a little bit of a relief," Pantaleon's cousin, Gasdeli Pantaleon, said of the arrests, "but then when we look at the charges and don't see any type of hate crime, it hurts us."
Added the cousin: "It's clear that he got attacked because of his sexuality."
Santiago, who confessed to shooting Pantaleon, said in one of the messages discovered by investigators that he returned to the scene of the crime after the slaying with Carrasco-Calderon, who mutilated Pantaleon's body with a knife. Santiago and Carraso-Calderon face additional charges of "crimes against the dead."
Ibarra shed additional light on the horrific slaying.
"According to court documents cited by several news outlets, Santiago told police that Pantaleon had made an 'unwanted advance' that made him feel 'uncomfortable,'" Huffpost recounted.
But, HuffPost relayed, Ibarra "allegedly told police that Santiago planned to kill Pantaleon a day before the crime," telling investigators that "they discussed the murder, when, where and how it would be done, and videos and photographs were passed around," according to court documents.
"The suspects also reportedly made comments about Pantaleon's sexuality in the chat, saying that gay people were not 'allowed in the northside,' according to the Mesa station," HuffPost added.
Pantaleon's bereaved family have established a GoFundMe in which they described Pantaleon as "full of love" and "the funniest, [most] caring loving person..."
"Ibarra has been booked into the Maricopa County jail on a $2 million cash-only bond," AZFamily detailed.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.