Jury finds teen not guilty in murder of Garner couple

Israel Vasquez in court Sept. 15.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Wake County jury decided Monday afternoon on a not-guilty verdict for a teen accused in a 2013 Garner double murder.

This was the second trial associated with the January 2013 murders of Maria and Jose Mendoza. Deputies said the Mendozas were unintended victims of a gang dispute when they were murdered on in their home.

RELATED: Santillan found guilty of murdering Garner couple

Authorities believe a high-ranking gang member used to the live at the residence and may have been the intended target.

Israel Vasquez, 19, was  facing first-degree murder, conspiracy, and other charges in the Medonzas’ deaths.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on a possession of stolen weapon charge and possession of weapon with an altered serial number charge. The jury returned verdicts of not guilty on the murder, burglary and conspiracy charges.

Wake County deputy Raymond Brunner took the stand Thursday during the opening day of the trial on Sept 15.

“First thing I noticed was the amount of smoke or burning gun powder. It’s a very distinct smell,” said Brunner. “Such a small, small space, a large amount of fun fire in a short period of time does not allow that smoke to dissipate.”

According to warrants, Vasquez used a .45mm caliber pistol, with an obliterated serial number, and a 7.62 mm military-type rifle which is believed to have been stolen.

In 2015, Jonathan Santillan, Vasquez’s uncle, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the murder.

Documents show Jose Mendoza was shot 16 times in the head, chest and torso. Maria Mendoza was shot seven times in the back, lower abdomen and legs.

One of the couple’s children, who was 3-years-old at the time, was unharmed in the shooting.

Sentencing will take place on Tuesday.

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