DOVER — After his wife, Erica, was shot dead in front of their Dover home last month, Cornelio Negrete Jr. called for justice.
Negrete, 28, was also shot that day and appeared to be a victim along with his wife. After the shooting, Negrete in an interview with WTSP-Ch. 10 described Erica as “kind-hearted” and said he hoped whoever shot them would be caught.
“I won’t be 100% happy if they are behind bars because they took my wife and she is irreplaceable, but I will know they can’t do this to anyone else,” Negrete told the station.
Now, deputies say Cornelio Negrete was in on the shooting along with two other suspects who have already been arrested, one of them his cousin.
Cornelio Negrete was arrested Tuesday in Plant City on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, principal to first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and false reports to law enforcement. He was being held Wednesday without bail.
In announcing the arrest Wednesday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office did not provide details about what led detectives to arrest him or a suspected motive.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on Aug. 2 that two suspects, Daniel Negrete, 20, and Fatima Lizeth Garcia Avila, 27, were arrested and charged in connection to Erica Negrete’s shooting and the shooting of another man they wanted to frame for the killing. Court documents say Garcia helped Daniel Negrete, her current boyfriend, kill Erica Negrete and then conspired to kill Antonio Cuellar-Enriquez, 25, and make it look like he killed Erica Negrete, according to arrest affidavits.
Cuellar-Enriquez was Fatima Garcia’s ex-boyfriend. Daniel Negrete is Cornelio Negrete’s cousin.
A witness told investigators that Garcia said she “had to use somebody to take the fall” in Erica Negrete’s death, “so who else better than my ex?”
The affidavits laid out how the investigation unfolded after Erica Negrete was shot dead.
About 11 p.m. that night, Erica’s husband, Cornelio Negrete Jr., called 911 and said he and his wife had been shot outside their home on the 3000 block of Al Simmons Road, and after the shooting, someone stole their pickup truck. Cornelio Negrete, who was later treated at Tampa General Hospital for a graze gunshot wound to his side, told investigators he was in the house with the couple’s two children when he heard gunshots and his wife scream. He opened a side door to the home and saw his wife on the ground. He said she told him, “C.J., go get your gun.”
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Cornelio Negrete said he went back into the house, retrieved a gun and came back outside. He said he felt something hit his head, then blacked out and woke up in time to hear his truck Chevrolet Avalanche being driven away. Erica Negrete died at the scene.
About a half-hour after the shooting, deputies received a call about a burning vehicle on the 2200 block of Fairfield Avenue in Brandon and found Cornelio Negrete’s Avalanche engulfed in flames.
According to the affidavits, Cornelio Negrete told investigators his wife had had affairs with two other men.
On July 26, Erica Negrete’s father contacted law enforcement after he received a text message in Spanish that morning from an “Antonio,” who apologized for what “they did,” an affidavit states. The sender asked for forgiveness and the message stated, “This was not the plan.” Detectives determined “Antonio” was Cuellar-Enriquez and learned that he’d been close to the Aviles family and had worked for the family’s tire shop.
As detectives worked that case, the Sheriff’s Office received a call about 7:45 a.m. on the morning of July 26 about a man lying on the ground on the 12000 block of Thonotosassa Road, near the Baker Creek Boat Ramp. Deputies arrived to find Cuellar-Enriquez dead from apparent gunshot wounds.
Investigators determined Cuellar-Enriquez had been shot about 11:40 p.m. on July 25, so detectives concluded that a suspect or suspects likely had his phone at the time the text message to Erica Negrete’s father was sent.
A witness said Garcia provided an account of what happened that night that included details “unique to the investigation” that had not been publicized. Garcia said she drove Daniel Negrete to an area near Cornelio and Erica Negrete’s home and dropped him off. According to the witness, “Fatima Garcia went to the area knowing the plan was to murder Erica Aviles because she was ‘a bad mother,’” an affidavit states.
Daniel Negrete hid in the back of the Avalanche and then shot Erica Negrete, according to the affidavits.
Fatima Garcia then contacted Cuellar-Enriquez and told him they should spend the night together, then gave him pills for a headache in an attempt to cause an overdose, an affidavit states. When that didn’t work, she called Daniel Negrete, who arrived and confronted Cuellar-Enriquez about being with Garcia. During a struggle, Negrete shot Cuellar-Enriquez, affidavits state. Garcia then used Cuellar-Enriquez’s phone to send the text message to Erica Negrete’s father to make it look like Cuellar-Enriquez killed her or knew who did, according to the affidavits.
Garcia told the witness the plan had been to kill Cuellar-Enriquez and make it look like a suicide, an affidavit states.
Garcia and Daniel Negrete face multiple charges, including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Both are being held in jail awaiting trial.