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Laredo murder suspect explains role in police video

Associated Press Writer

LAREDO, Texas- A lawyer for one of four Mexican men accused of carrying out a contract killing said Tuesday that the videotaped confession and interviews of his client were "coerced" by police.

In a video shown in court Tuesday, Jorge Gregorio Reyes Herbert tells police that he was paid $1,000 to act as a "lookout" in the Sept. 25 killing-for-hire in September of Concepcion Rocha at a Laredo taco shop.

Authorities believe the hit was ordered by a suspected drug dealer whose body was found nearly a month later in Mexico. The dealer, identified as Luis Edgar Menchaca Romero, had been tortured to death. Formal charges have not been brought.

The case comes amid mounting concerns of an increasing spillover of crime from neighboring Nuevo Laredo. State and federal officials from both the United States and Mexico have boosted law enforcement along the Texas-Mexican border.

In the tape, Reyes Herbert also confessed to the shooting death of another man in June at a car dealership in this town along the Texas-Mexico border. Reyes Herbert said he was paid $2,000 for that job, according to the tape.

Andy Ramos, Reyes Herbert's attorney, said he believes the videotape interview by police was "coerced" and obtained without proper notification.

"That was a coerced statement. Police threatened to arrest his wife who was pregnant," said Ramos.

Rocha was driving a gray Cadillac Escalade when two gunmen walked up and shot him in the head and chest with 9 mm pistols, according to police reports.

Reyes Herbert, Gabriel Jalomo Rodriguez, 20, Juan Claro Villegas Pavon, 24, and Emerico DeLuna Magallan, 19, are believed to be members of an "organized criminal organization utilized to commit murders for drug trafficking organizations," according to an arrest warrant for Villegas Pavon.

Reyes Herbert participated in Tuesday's hearing with a translator because he only speaks Spanish. He was dressed in an orange jump suit and handcuffed, with shackles on his feet. His wife and infant daughter watched from a bench nearby, sometimes making eye contact but without much expression.

Authorities say more than 150 people have died in drug-related violence in that town. Laredo police say they have linked just two of the city's 20 homicides to the Mexican drug trade.

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