SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — A petition to release the teenagers involved in the murder of a man accused of sexually abusing their younger sister has garnered nearly 450,000 signatures.
Carlos Espina, an immigration activist from Bryan-College Station, started the petition on January 24 in an effort to reduce the charges the three teenagers — brothers Christian, 17, and Alejandro Trevino, 18, and 18-year-old Juan Eduardo Melendez — are facing in the death of 42-year-old Gabriel Quintanilla.
Quintanilla was the on-again-off-again boyfriend of the Trevinos’ mother and the father of their 9-year-old half-sister.
The brothers reportedly accused the 42-year-old of sexually abusing their sister on Jan. 21 and physically assaulted him once in their home and again a short time later at an apartment complex in Pharr with the help of Melendez.
Police reported that Alejandro went home, after which Christian and Melendez found Quintanilla walking alongside a road where they assaulted him for a third time. The teenagers loaded the man, which they report was alive at the time, into the bed of a pickup truck and drove him to an open field in McAllen where they dropped his body, police reports state.
Authorities said Tuesday they were issued an arrest warrant for Quintanilla’s arrest for an unrelated 2019 continuous sexual abuse case but were not able to locate him until he was discovered dead last week.
Espina said that because Texas institutes mandatory minimum sentences for capital felony offenses, two of the teens will automatically get life in prison if found guilty.
“Their lives are basically over,” Espina said in an interview with KTSA News.
Christian and Melendez are facing capital murder charges for transporting Quintanilla to the field in McAllen. Alejandro and the two other teens are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and aggravated assault of a family member.
Espina said he wants Governor Greg Abbott, or whoever may have say over the severity of the charges, to reevaluate the case to determine whether life in prison is the just punishment.
He referenced the recent case of a Cuban truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos that had a 110-year prison sentence commuted down to 10 years by Colorado Governor Jared Polis last month. The brakes failed in the 18-wheeler Mederos was driving in 2019, causing a 28-car pileup that killed 4 people.
The petition that got the governor’s attention received more than 5 million signatures.
Espina, who boasts more than 2.4 million followers on TikTok, is attending law school at the University of Nevada Las Vegas with a focus on immigration law.
All three teens remain in the Hidalgo County Jail. Alejandro’s bond is set at $1 million dollars. Christian and Melendez’s bonds are set at $1.5 million.