A 47-year-old KFC worker, accused of killing a 21-year-old co-worker who tried to break off their affair, was ordered held without bond in a Maryland courtroom on Monday as details emerged about his background.
Elmer M. Campos-Martinez, a citizen of El Salvador, was deported from the United States in 1994 but illegally reentered the country some time later, according to federal immigration officials. He worked construction jobs in the Washington area and also held the restaurant job at a KFC along University Boulevard West in downtown Wheaton, Md.
"Based upon the nature of the offense in this case, I am going to find that he presents a clear danger to the community and a flight risk," Montgomery County District Judge Margaret M. Schweitzer said in court Monday, ordering that Campos-Martinez be held on the no-bond status.
She said that if he were released, Campos-Martinez could flee because he "actually has nothing to lose," given the pending deportation case against him, Schweitzer said.
Campos-Martinez has no criminal convictions on his record, according to Maryland online court records and a county official who spoke in court Monday.
He has "significant ties" to the local community and supports family members, said his attorney, Rosana Chavez.
The homicide case against Campos-Martinez began as a missing-persons investigation.
On Nov. 6, the husband of Dania Mendez de Guerra, reported that she hadn't returned from her evening shift. She always did so, police learned, walking the few blocks to the home she shared with her husband and their 4-year-old child.
As investigators tried to find de Guerra, they learned she had been having a romantic relationship with Campos-Martinez.
On Friday, de Guerra's body was found — with traumatic injuries to her head and face — behind two large dumpsters and partially obscured by trash, just a block from the KFC where she worked.
Investigators brought Campos-Martinez in for questioning. They established that on Nov. 5, the day before de Guerra went missing, she and Campos-Martinez had worked the evening shift, starting at 4 p.m.
Campos-Martinez left the restaurant at 11:45 p.m. De Guerra left less than an hour later at 12:30 a.m., police said.
Campos-Martinez told detectives that after he had gotten off of work, he waited near the KFC for de Guerra. He said they met up and began to argue, according to statements in a police charging document.
"The defendant disclosed to investigators that the victim was upset with him and wanted to break up. The verbal argument escalated," detectives wrote in an affidavit.
In the detectives' telling, Campos-Martinez put himself at the crime scene but appeared to have tried to minimize his role.
"The defendant disclosed punching the victim three times and pushing her to the ground where she hit her head," court documents allege.
Campos-Martinez said de Guerra appeared to be unresponsive. He took her purse and cellphone and called a taxi to leave the area, according to the documents. Campos-Martinez also said that he discarded the cellphone and purse in a dumpster after he got home.
An autopsy showed de Guerra died of blunt force trauma and asphyxia. She also had defensive injuries to her hands, suggesting she was trying to protect her face while being beaten, according to police accounts filed in court.
Detectives charged Campos-Martinez with second-degree murder, which does not carry with it the premeditation needed for the state's more serious charge of first-degree murder.
In court Monday, Chavez did not address the allegations against Campos-Martinez. She said he had worked at one construction company since at least 2014, and before that, a different company for six years in the area.