Headline — 02 August 2013 — by Albert J. Ciego
O.W. taximan’s body burned in Carmelita!

The charred remains of a man who was burnt beyond recognition was found in the trunk of a car that had been destroyed by fire.

The worst fears of the family of Hugo Ernesto Moreno, 42, a taxi driver of Sittee Street, Orange Walk, who was reported missing by his worried family on Sunday, July 28, became reality, when they conceded that the practically unidentifiable, badly burnt corpse could be that of their loved one, Hugo Moreno.

The gruesome discovery was made about 2:20 yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, about one mile outside Carmelita Village in the Orange Walk District. People in the area saw the burnt car, which matched the description of Hugo Moreno’s car which, along with its owner, had been reported missing.

Moreno’s death comes thirteen days after the body of another taxi operator, Jose Martin Umana, 45, was found in a state of decomposition behind a cohune tree in an area between George Price Boulevard and the George Price Highway (formerly Western Highway) at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

Police reports are that at about 2:20 p.m. yesterday, Tuesday, July 30, they went to an area about two miles from Carmelita Village in the sand pit area, where they saw a 4-door Neon car completely destroyed by fire. They determined that the vehicle was the missing car owned by missing taxi driver Hugo Moreno.

In the trunk of the vehicle were the badly burned remains of a body that police believed to be that of Moreno.

The body was transported to the Northern Regional Hospital. Meanwhile, the forensic unit of the Orange Walk police processed the scene and investigators began their work to uncover the details behind the horrible death.

At the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital today, a post-mortem conducted by Dr. Mario Estradabran, assisted by the Forensics Unit, made an effort to positively identify the body as Moreno’s, but police say that the corpse was burnt beyond recognition. They were also unable to confirm the cause of death.

Police later announced that they are seeking six men who they believe can assist with their investigations.

Police say that according to information they received, Hugo Moreno was last seen alive at about 2:30 Monday morning in the Trial Farm area of Orange Walk, with some men in his car.

Magda Moreno, Hugo’s wife, told the media that his upper body, to his waist, was completely burnt and there was no way of identifying that part of him, but she claims that she was still able to recognize the corpse as the remains of Hugo. His mother, who travelled to the morgue along with her, also confirmed that the burnt corpse was that of her son.

Magda said that she last saw Hugo at about 11:30 Saturday night when he left home to start his taxi operation at the Fiesta Rama – an event which was being held at the People’s Stadium in Orange Walk Town. He was also a mechanic, and had worked on the car for a week to get it ready for the Fiesta Rama. He was also supposed to pick up their children and bring them home from the fiesta.

She said that about 1:30 Sunday morning he called her and told her that the children would be ready to leave the fiesta in the next ten minutes. She said that she told him that it was already late, and called her daughter and told her to leave the fiesta grounds right away and to call her dad to pick her up.

Magda said that she called her husband back to tell him that the children were to go home right away, but he did not answer the phone.

Hugo’s daughter, Jessy Moreno, said she called her dad to ask him to pick her up, but she also got no response.

Jessy, after failing to contact him to pick her up from the stadium, walked home from the fiesta.

Magda said that throughout the night he did not call, which was not like him, and she became worried, fearing that something had gone wrong. She said that she went to the police on Sunday and made a report.

Throughout Sunday, Moreno did not come home, and she and others began to search for him.

However, police are confident that Moreno was seen in the Trial Farm Village area about 2:30 Monday morning, with some men in his car, and are baffled as to why he did not call home after he left the fiesta. The question that the family and the police want to know is, where was Moreno between 1:30 Sunday morning, when he last spoke with his wife, and 2:30 Monday morning, when he reportedly was seen with passengers in Trial Farm?

On Tuesday, at about 2:00 in the afternoon, Magda got a phone call from a man who was searching for her husband, informing her that Hugo’s car had been found in the Carmelita Village area, but that it had been destroyed by fire.

Magda said that when she got the message, she became nervous. Her car, however, refused to start, and so a neighbor took them to the scene in Carmelita, where they came upon the gruesome sight.

The grieving wife said that Hugo was well-known, and as far as she is aware, had no enemies, so she believes that he was robbed and killed. When he left home, she said, he had about $500 in his possession, and she believes that he was killed for the money.

She was told that he had made a run to Paraiso Village in Corozal, and some men were seen in his vehicle. Police also told her that he may have gotten a job to go on a run while he was waiting for his children to come out of the Fiesta Rama.

Police have not been able to confirm whether Moreno was killed elsewhere and then taken to the area where he was found, or if the murder took place at that location.

Magda and the rest of Moreno’s family are at a loss as to why he was killed and in such a horrible manner. She said that he was a good father; he was strict with his children and was punctual, and expected them to live up to the standard he set.

Hugo’s daughter, Jessy Moreno, said that the tragedy has devastated the family, but they are trying their best to cope.

Assistant Inspector Julius Cantun, Deputy Commander of the Orange Walk Police and chief investigator for the case, is following several leads. Police are confident that Moreno was seen in Trial Farm on Monday morning, and are looking for the men who reportedly were with him. Cantun is urging people who have information that can help the case to come forward and talk to the police.

He said that the Forensic Services have been requested to use their DNA expertise for positive identification, using Moreno’s dental profile, to establish that the corpse in the car is indeed Moreno.

Orange Walk police said that this is the first murder to have occurred in Orange Walk within the last 9 months, since October 2012.

Hugo Moreno is survived by his wife Magda, his mother and stepfather, his daughter Jessy and two sons, as well as one sister and two brothers.

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