Frederick, Md., police charged a man with first-degree murder in the March slaying of a Burger King manager.
It was a cold-blooded crime that rocked the community. Assistant burger king manager Jacinta "Patty" Ayala was shot to death while preparing to open the restaurant March 18.
“It’s culminating with the charging of Jose Reyes Mejia-Varela with murder, robbery and related charges,” Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine.
The 21-year-old Mejia-Varela was a former coworker of the victim.
Investigators needed hundreds of hours of legwork to charge the suspect, police said. Mejia-Varela was only questioned initially because he had worked at the Burger King, but under routine questioning, police discovered that he was in the country illegally after being deported to El Salvador in 2009.
“His family is here, and he came back to be with his family,” said Thomas White, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The victim arrived at the restaurant about 5:30 a.m. March 18. She was discovered shot to death about a half hour later by a coworker and someone making a delivery.
In a statement, Ayala’s family thanked police, adding it “gives us the sense of relief and anticipation that justice will be served. Patty was a loving mother to her three children, girlfriend, sister and friend, and we will miss her deeply.”
Mejia-Varela was in the custody of federal authorities on charges of illegally entering the country, when investigators were able to link him to the case, police said. They would not provide any details.
“The breakthrough was the hard work -- these gentlemen behind me consistently doing the hard work and putting this together as a puzzle and putting that puzzle back together,” Frederick police Lt. Clark Pennington.
“We realize how this horrific crime affected the Frederick community, and it’s unacceptable, and we are very pleased to bring this case to a successful conclusion,” Dine said.