ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Court documents give new details into the deaths of a mother and who two children before their home was set on fire and the mother’s body allegedly dumped in the Catawba River.
Investigators say the fire that started the investigation was intentionally set at a home on Pine Meadows Lane in Alexander County late at night on Saturday, June 15. Crews arrived at the scene shortly after and worked to extinguish the flames, but the reported use of an accelerant allowed the fire to spread before it was eventually contained.
Two children found dead inside the home were identified the following Tuesday as 11-year-old Angel E. Pacheco and his 13-year-old sister America D. Pacheco. The children’s mother, 38-year-old Maria Calderon, is still missing, but officials believe she is deceased and her body may be somewhere in the Catawba River.
On Monday, police said 30-year-old Areli Aguiree Avilez and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Heidi Darlene Wolfe, were each charged with three counts of murder in connection to the case. They are being held without bond.
The court documents, obtained by WBTV on Thursday, state that Wolfe admitted to detectives that she went to the home with Avilez - and that he shot and killed two people inside. When a female who Wolfe thought was a child ran out of the home, the documents state, Avilez told Wolfe to run her over. Wolfe says she did what she was told.
Investigators say the female was Calderon, not one of the children. She was killed on impact. The documents also state that Wolfe’s mother told authorities her daughter said Calderon’s body was dumped in the Catawba River.
“Avilez wrapped her up in a cover and they took her across Oxford Dam and dumped her body,” the documents state.
Crews began searching waters along Highway 16 in the Riverbend Park area near the Oxford Dam for a body connected to the case on Monday. It wasn’t until Tuesday they confirmed that body belonged to Calderon.
On Wednesday - day four of the search for Calderon’s body - Sheriff Chris Bowman said his investigators are following every lead and are still talking with people and gathering evidence as they find it. He says the case against Avilez and Wolfe, in his opinion, is strong.
“We have made two arrests and there possibly could be more,” Bowman said, adding that any more arrests would be more in the nature of accessory after the fact and not murder itself. Investigators want to know if anyone helped Avilez or Wolfe after the incidents took place.
Both suspects appeared before a Judge in Alexander County on Friday. The two were brought to the courthouse under heavy security with the media kept back.
Questions were shouted to the two but neither answered. Both had already been given appointed attorneys and have been advised not to say anything, said Sheriff Chris Bowman.
In court, they appeared before the judge separately and were advised of the charges, their rights and possible penalties.
Aguirre-Avilez was told he could face a maximum penalty of death if convicted. Heidi Wolfe, because of her age, was told her maximum penalty could be life without parole.
Prosecutors argued that both could be flight risks if bond was reduced. The judge decided that Aguirre-Avilez should be kept behind bars without bond. In Heidi Wolfe’s case, the bond was set at $999,999.
Their next court date was set for July 8, but the sheriff indicated that the matter could go before a Grand Jury before then.
Tuesday evening, authorities also said they were seeking the whereabouts of two other people - Jose Carlos Mendez and Luis Fernando Sanchez. They are acquaintances of Calderon’s, officials said, and “are not considered suspects at this time in the investigation.”
Meanwhile, the search for Maria Calderon’s body is ongoing, with a lot of people expected to be along the Catawba River in the Lookout Shoals Lake area this weekend, the sheriff is asking everyone to be on the lookout for anything they see that they think is suspicious.
“Call law enforcement if you do,” he said.