Seth Tupper and Melanie Brandert, Forum Communications Co., Published November 13 2009
Two arrests made in Mitchell murder investigationMITCHELL, S.D. – Two suspects were arrested Thursday for the murder of 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara of Mitchell.
Authorities identified the suspects as Alexander Salgado, 20, and a 15-year-old girl whose name is being withheld. Both originated from Fort Wayne, Ind., authorities said, but were residing recently in Mitchell.
The suspects, who were arrested near Guevara’s residence, are each accused of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and aiding and abetting. Salgado is being held in the Davison County Jail, but authorities refused to say where the juvenile girl is being held. They said it’s anticipated that the girl will be charged as an adult.
The investigation began Tuesday night with what was described as a “range fire” about three miles southeast of Mitchell. The fire consumed a car, and authorities found a body in the car. According to eyewitnesses who reported the blaze, the body was in the trunk. Guevara was reported missing that same night.
Hanson County Sheriff Mark Kessler said Thursday night that the body – which has been transported to the State Crime Lab in Pierre, along with the car – still has not been positively identified as Guevara.
“But information from the investigation led us to believe that they are one in the same,” Kessler said during a Thursday night news conference in the Mitchell Public Safety Center. He was joined during the conference by Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg.
Kessler called the crime an “isolated incident” and said there are no lingering threats to the public. He believes the murder to be the first in Hanson County since 2005.
No initial court date has been set for the suspects, but Kessler said the charges will be filed in Hanson County, where the incident occurred. An autopsy on the body found in the car is scheduled for today, and Kessler said it could take three to four weeks to get results.
Kessler said the suspects were acquaintances of Guevara. Overweg said information pertaining to a motive has been obtained but will not be released at this time.
A weapon was used in the murder and has been confiscated, Kessler said, but he declined to divulge any further information on that aspect of the case.
Guevara was last seen Tuesday evening in a green, 1999 Chevrolet Malibu. The burned car has been identified as a Malibu, but it has not yet been positively identified as the Malibu that Guevara was last seen in.
Earlier Thursday, a group called “Praying for Jasmine Guevara” formed on the Facebook social-networking Web site. Mitchell High School called in additional counselors from other Mitchell schools to help students affected by Guevara’s disappearance.
Guevara was a sophomore at the high school, Superintendent Joe Graves said. She took part in marching band and cross country as a freshman and was an honor-roll student in middle school.
Brigitte Casavan, a third-year cross country coach at the high school, said Guevara competed in the sport for two years. Casavan recalled that Guevara could not take part in some weekend meets because she had to work and help her family pay bills.
“She was a hard worker, very humble,” Casavan said. “She wasn’t one of those people who was loud and draws attention to herself. … She was a sweet little girl.”
Casavan expressed dismay at the incident.
“This breaks my heart this could happen in Mitchell,” she said.
Student Amelia Miller knew Guevara because their older sisters were close friends in school. She said Guevara was a wonderful person who worked a lot and tried to keep out of trouble.
“She was always there to give you (a) smile and listen to how life was,” Miller told The Daily Republic via Facebook. “Though she was tired from her jobs, she was proud of herself – all her family was – for how hard she worked.”
Though two suspects in the murder are in custody, authorities are still seeking additional information from the public. People with information about the crimes are urged to call Mitchell police at (605) 995-8400, or Mitchell Area Crimestoppers at (605) 996-1700. To text Crimestoppers, send “mitcs” plus a message to CRIMES (274637). People who contact Crimestoppers can remain anonymous.
Seth Tupper and Melanie Brandert are writers for the Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic which is owned by Forum Communications Co.