Two Henry County men identified as murder victims found in burning truck; suspect in custody

Arrest photo provided by the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office.

STAFF REPORT :::

An arrest has been made in a case in which two bodies were discovered in a pickup truck engulfed in flames.

The Spalding County Fire Department (SCFD) and Spalding County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) on Tuesday afternoon responded to the call on Jackson Road near the Butts County line.
Upon arrival, first responders located the burning Chevrolet Z71 pickup truck parked just inside a wood line.

As the fire was being extinguished, SCFD personnel located two bodies in the bed of the truck.

The Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and Criminal Investigation Division responded to the scene, as did Spalding County Coroner Michael Pryor and Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder.

“We immediately began contacting other local agencies to see if they had reports of any missing persons or stolen vehicles matching the description of the truck. Due to the extreme heat generated by the fire we had to wait more than two hours before we could begin processing the scene,” said Sheriff Darrell Dix. “Once the scene was safe our Crime Scene Investigators went to work processing the truck for evidence while our Criminal Investigators began working on identifying the victims and tracking down the owner of the truck. The fire was so intense that it completely destroyed the VIN plates, and the truck had no tag. Spalding County Coroner Michael Pryor contacted the GBI Crime Lab and both bodies were transported for autopsy and possible identification.”

In contacting other agencies, Henry County investigators reported that two men had been reported missing by their families on April 11.

Henry County investigators reported the two missing men had gone to meet a Hispanic male to discuss a joint business venture. They had not been seen or heard from since.

Information provided by Henry County investigators including race, sex, height, weight and identifying characteristics such as tattoos enabled the SCSO to identify the victims as 29-year-old Joshua Wyatt and 36-year-old Carlos Benford.

Henry County investigators, working with Clayton County officials, had resulted in information leading to a Clayton County address.

The SCSO credited media coverage with an influx of additional tips and information, and investigators followed up on each, Dix said.

This ultimately led investigators to a residence located at 375 Dutchman Road.

The SCSO SWAT Team and CAGE Unit on Wednesday executed a search warrant at that location.

Once the scene was secured, officials discovered the residence had been vacated with furniture and other household items being burned in a large pile in the back yard.

Authorities say the residence had also been sprayed with bleach to allegedly destroy evidence.

SCSO Crime Scene Investigators processed the residence and collected evidence, and according to Dix, their efforts paid off.

“Their attempts to cover up their crime failed. Our Crime Scene Investigators located the actual spot in the house where the murders took place, and they were able to recover evidence,” Dix said. “Also located in the search were items that directly linked the victims to the house.”

Thursday morning, Spalding County Investigators obtained arrest warrants for Erik Eduardo Cabrealopez charging him with two counts of murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of malice murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of concealing a death and two counts of tampering with evidence.

After a brief vehicle pursuit that ended when a GSP trooper initiated a PIT maneuver, Cabrealopez was taken into custody today at approximately 12:30 p.m. in Fulton County by the GBI Gang Task Force, Georgia State Patrol, GBI West Metro Narcotics Unit and Spalding County.

“This investigation was brought this far due to the hard work and inter-agency cooperation between the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office and all of the agencies and Offices involved. Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder, Spalding County Coroner Michael Pryor, the Henry County Police Department, the Clayton County Police Department, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Victor Hill, the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Eddie Mixon, the GBI Gang Task Force, GBI West Metro Narcotics Unit, and the Georgia State Patrol,” Dix said. “We are all praying for the families of these two young men whose lives were taken in such as violent and senseless way. We are going to do all we can to make sure that their killer and anyone else that we learn was involved as the investigation continues never sees the light of day as a free man again until the day they die.”

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