By Ian McCann, Staff Writer
The Dallas Morning News
As crimes go, running a stop sign typically isn't high on the list.
Running a stop sign with a plastic-wrapped dead body in the back of the victim's SUV - and failing to stop after a deputy turned on his flashing lights - is bound to raise some suspicion.
And that's what happened Wednesday evening after two men in an SUV sped through a stop sign in Rowlett.
"If they had stopped, the officer probably would have written a ticket, and that would have been it," said Deputy Raul Reyna, a Dallas County sheriff's spokesman. "The body was on the floorboard, behind the rear seats. Unless he had searched through the [SUV], he probably wouldn't have seen it."
Instead, both passenger and driver took off running into the night in a rural part of far northeast Dallas County, raising the deputy's suspicions and leading to the discovery of a dead man, believed to be the owner of the late model GMC Envoy, inside.
Police said a sheriff's deputy on patrol spotted the Envoy running a stop sign at Elm Grove Road and Vinson Road in Rowlett about 7:40 p.m. Wednesday. The deputy trailed the SUV for a while - at 60 mph in a 40 mph zone on Elm Grove - before turning on his flashing lights.
It's not too unusual, Deputy Reyna said, for somebody to keep driving on a narrow two-lane road before stopping.
"They could have just been looking for a place to pull over," he said.
But then things took an unexpected turn. After turning into a long driveway on Pleasant Valley Road, roughly a mile away, the passenger door opened. A man got out, hopped over a fence and ran off. Soon after, the driver's door opened and another man stepped out, although he left the SUV in gear and slowly moving forward.
"The deputy saw a gun in his rear waistband," Deputy Reyna said. "The [SUV] keeps moving and hits the gate, which knocks the gun out of the waistband. When he sees the gun, he knew he had something and he calls for help."
Police officers and search dogs from Sachse, Wylie and McKinney soon arrived. They retrieved a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol that had fallen from the suspect's waistband, and then began combing the field. After a few hours, they stopped the search.
Investigators began inspecting the SUV, hoping to figure out who the driver and passenger were. That's when they found the bloody body, wrapped tightly in a plastic tarp.
The victim was identified as 27-year-old Gonzalo Hernandez of Dallas. Authorities said he apparently was killed by blunt-force trauma to the back of his head.
Knowing then that they had murder suspects on the loose, investigators searched again for the two men. About 11:30 p.m., they found Sergio Cardenas Gonzalez, 37, hiding in a creek less than 100 yards away from where the SUV had rolled into a tree. But they didn't find the second man, who authorities believe was the driver.
Deputy Reyna said investigators believe Mr. Hernandez may have been killed during a drug deal. His criminal record includes arrests on charges of drunken driving, assault and drug offenses.
On Thurday, the investigation ran into several roadblocks. Mr. Gonzalez's family was uncooperative, Deputy Reyna said, adding that interviews with Mr. Gonzalez, whose criminal record includes a burglary conviction, haven't been much more helpful.
"His story is that he was a hitchhiker picked up by the driver, and he had no idea there was a body in the back," Deputy Reyna said.
Anyone with information about the death is asked to call the Dallas County Sheriff's Department at 214-749-8641.
Copyright 2006 THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Traffic stop in Texas uncovers dead body