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Three men sentenced for Don Ramon’s murder

HeadlineThree men sentenced for Don Ramon's murder

A fourth man, identified as Manuel Mendez Castillo, who is believed to be the mastermind of what he described as a contract killing, remains on the run. 

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 29, 2022

After eight years of being on remand, three of the men accused of carrying out the 2014 murder of 71-year-old Ramon Cervantes, Sr., a former Orange Walk mayor, senator and PUP Orange Walk East standard bearer who was the father of current Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes, have been sentenced in the Orange Walk Supreme Court. One of the three men, Guatemalan national Noe Avila, who pleaded guilty to murder in March of this year, received a life sentence. His accomplices, Mateo Pott, a Belizean mason of Trial Farm in the Orange Walk District, and Angel Antonio Cardenas, a Belizean construction worker, also of Trial Farm, were each sentenced to 21 years in prison for manslaughter. However, another man who is believed to have been involved in the killing, Manuel “Pelon” Castillo (suspected of being the mastermind behind the abduction and slaying of Don Ramon), remains on the lam, and authorities believe that he has fled the country.

Prior to the issuance of the sentences in the court of Justice Herbert Lord, submissions were made by the prosecution and the defense attorneys of the men. Justice Lord explained that the list of factors stacked against Avila was long. For pleading guilty, he was not offered a reduced sentence by the court, since Justice Lord pointed out that he waited 8 years to enter the plea, and did so just before the commencement of trial. His life sentence spans a 26-year fixed term, but he will be eligible to apply for parole after 18 years, since he has already served 8 years on remand.

Angel Cardenas and Mateo Pott, who both pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter, were both sentenced to 21 years in prison respectively, and are expected to be released in 13 years due to the eight years they already spent on remand.

In July 2014, Cervantes, Sr., affectionately known as “Don Ramon,” was abducted, brutally bludgeoned to death, and buried in a shallow grave three and a half miles down the Honey Camp Road in the Indian Hill area of Orange Walk. The well-known cañero, businessman, and former senator was abducted from his cane field on the San Roman Road in Orange Walk on July 1, 2014. When he had not returned home for lunch at midday, his family had reportedly tried to call him, and when he spoke to them—seemingly while he was being held by the men and under duress—his behavior was strange and his tone of voice, according to his family, was unusual. Four days later, on July 5, 2014, his partially decomposed body was found.

In a recorded telephone conversation with Don Ramon’s widow, Mrs. Vilma Cervantes, a person purporting to be Manuel “El Pelon” Castillo claimed that the murder was a contract killing allegedly sanctioned by a then sitting minister and a number of police officers.

During the recorded conversation, which took place in October of 2014 and was publicly aired during a memorial service in honor of Mr. Cervantes on Wednesday, November 5, 2014, the caller, who identified himself as Manuel “Pelon” Castillo,  stated, according to a San Pedro Sun report, “that a senior elected Belizean parliamentarian and Cabinet minister as well as a senior member of the Belize Police Department stationed in Orange Walk Town was the mastermind behind the torture and execution of Cervantes, Sr.”, but that the actual target of the planned killing had been Don Ramon’s son, Ramon “Monchie” Cervantes, Jr., current area representative for Orange Walk, rather than the 71-year-old cañero.

During the recorded conversation, which the family later submitted to police, the caller could be heard saying, “The young men made a mistake. They went and grabbed your husband. It was your son that they wanted to kill… It’s Monchi that they wanted to kill. They made a mistake and they killed your husband.” 

He further went on to state, “Explain to Monchi not to trust… any police because they are the same ones that are involved in all this. I’m telling you it’s a huge organization Mrs. Vilma. That’s why I am even afraid to talk because, I don’t know, Mrs. Vilma, maybe tomorrow, I will be walking around there and the same people that sent to kill your husband would pay someone there to kill me.”

The person purporting to be Manuel “El Pelon” Castillo went on to claim that he refused to carry out the contract killing when he learned that Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes was the target and that, in doing so, he put his own life on in danger—further claiming that he had in fact been shot and left for dead but was found by some persons near the Hondo River and was taken for medical attention.

According to a San Pedro Sun report, the call “was not made from a Belize registered phone company and is believed to have originated from Mexico.”

Manuel “Pelon” Castillo remains a fugitive wanted by Interpol. 

Interestingly, two police officers had initially been arrested for possible involvement in the kidnapping and killing of Cervantes, Sr., and in November 2014 the police had issued a report which stated that, “P.C. 743 Javier Alvarez, who apparently sold a police service handcuff to wanted fugitive Manuel Castillo has been placed on disciplinary charges on two counts for Prejudice to Good Order and Discipline and has been interdicted from duty since 26th September, 2014. No other evidence has surfaced to determine otherwise.”

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