On Dec. 15, the Blount County Sheriff’s Department received a missing persons report that led to the arrest of the couple’s son, Leo Chavez, 17. Chavez has been charged as an adult with three counts of capital murder – two counts of murder during the course of a robbery, and one count of the murder of two or more people in the same act.
On Jan. 5, an unnamed juvenile, 17, of Locust Fork, was arrested and charged as an adult with two counts of capital murder during a robbery, one count of capital murder of two or more people in the same act, and two counts of abuse of a corpse. Officials didn’t release his name, but court records identify him as Jose Gamaliel Villanueva.
On Jan. 8, Jose Guevara-Valadez, 20, of Fultondale, was arrested and charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of abuse of a corpse. A fourth suspect has been taken into custody and charged with one count of capital murder. The 14-year-old is being charged as a juvenile, and his identity is not being released at this time.
Blount County Sheriff’s Department Operations Officer Tim Kent said investigators worked around the clock following the couple’s disappearance, and that information they developed led to finding the bodies which had been buried in the woods, and subsequently solving the crime. The lead investigator was Lt. Leonard Chambliss.
District Attorney Pamela Casey released a statement summarizing the investigation and charges, and commending the work of Chambliss and his fellow investigators for their work on the case. She also praised the work of the Center for Applied Sciences at Jacksonville State University for their assistance in recovering the bodies.
“The families of the deceased organized large search parties and covered miles of territory in an effort to find their loved ones,” she said. “It has been very fulfilling to work with this family to bring closure to this tragic event and allow them to honor their loved ones with the dignity of a proper burial and service.”
She also thanked members of the community who assisted the family in their search.