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Boyfriend arrested in woman's death

An anonymous tip led Hillsborough sheriff's deputies Sunday to the man accused of killing his girlfriend in front of her family last week outside their mobile home.

Deputies found Juan Mendoza, 25, hiding in a trailer at a labor camp at Interchange Street and Shell Point Road, not far from where the shooting happened Feb. 10, said sheriff's spokesman Jack Espinosa.

The news of Mendoza's arrest pleased friends and family of Maria Quintanilla, whose 23-year-old daughter was murdered in July. Both killings were witnessed by 9-year-old Lisa Lopez, who saw her mother and grandmother shot dead by jealous boyfriends just months apart on the same rural street. Lisa's brother, David, and sister, Candy, also saw the grandmother's death.

"It helps knowing he's not out running around," said Quintanilla's daughter Angie Pineda, 27. "I never liked him. He was a very jealous man, and that was their problem."

Mendoza was arrested without incident and charged with first-degree murder, Espinosa said. He was taken to the Hillsborough County Jail, where he was being held late Sunday without bail.

Lisa, who attended her grandmother's funeral Saturday, appeared to be adjusting to her most recent loss.

Dressed in black bicycle shorts and a printed top, the little girl raced out the door with her cousins to meet a van waiting to take the children to Sunday school.

"With kids, it just doesn't sink in as fast," said Pineda, who moved into Quintanilla's trailer with her husband and two children last week. She said she will care for her sister's three children.

They had been staying with their grandmother since their mother, Maria Lopez, was killed. The youngest, 9-month-old Candy, brings full circle a sad irony.

"When she (Lopez) was pregnant, she was going to give her to me," said Pineda, who said her sister didn't think she could afford to care for the baby but changed her mind after she was born.

Mendoza, an orange picker, moved in with Quintanilla last September. Relatives said she told them he began beating her when they were alone, and she was frightened of him. She asked authorities for protection, but they were unable to help, Pineda said.

The family has little money, and Pineda said she was worried about how she would bury her mother. With the help of Hamilton Funeral Home, a trust fund was set up and Quintanilla was buried Saturday.

"They even gave us the burial ground right beside my sister," Pineda said.

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