Suspect in 'brutal murder' of gay Phoenix man connected to a 2nd murder | Crime Files

Phoenix Police officials have released an update that has some connections to an incident that they characterized as a "brutal murder."

In recent days, we have reported on the killing of 30-year-old Bernardo Pantaleon. Investigators say the man was found dead in the area of a park near 7th Avenue and Cinnabar on Nov. 26.

"[The victim's] body was mutilated, postmortem, with a sharp-edged object," read a portion of the court documents.

Read More: Suspects accused of mutilating Arizona murder victim's body | Crime Files

Four people have been arrested in connection with the murder. The incident may involve an anti-LGBT element, as court documents state that a group chat involving the suspects had "derogatory remarks regarding the victim's sexuality, and a derogatory statement about homosexuals not being allowed in the northside."

In all, four people have been arrested, and one of the suspects is now linked by police to a second murder that happened months prior.

Here are the details.

Who's the suspect?

Leonardo Santiago

Leonardo Santiago

According to a statement released on Dec. 8, 21-year-old Leonardo Santiago is linked to the murder of 20-year-old Osvaldo Hernandez Castillo.

What happened?

Investigators said Castillo's murder happened in March 2023.

According to court documents, officers responded to the area of 24th Avenue and Mission Lane on the afternoon of March 20 for what was described as an "emergency radio call of unknown trouble."

"Officers arrived on the scene and located relatives of the victim next to the victim's vehicle," read a portion of the documents. "The victim was seated in the driver's seat with a gunshot wound to his head."

Castillo, investigators say, was declared dead at the scene. A postmortem examination also found a gunshot wound to the back of Castillo's head, as well as Castillo's back, indicating he was shot from behind.

By August, police gained access to Castillo's mobile phone, and data from the phone showed that Castillo used Snapchat as a form of communication. It also revealed a Snapchat conversation between Castillo and another user.

"The messages between the two accounts indicated they intended to meet up for a sexual encounter," read a portion of the documents, which also notes that the other person in the conversation gave Castillo an address in the area of 22nd Avenue and Mission Lane, the "last location the victim's device was at before the homicide."

"It is believed the victim was engaged in a sexual encounter with a male at or around the time of his murder," investigators state.

Court documents state that a person who was caught in connection with an unrelated case told investigators that Santiago posted a video of him killing another man, while the man was seated inside a car. The identity of the person who gave that information to investigators was redacted from court documents.

After Santiago's arrest, investigators said they searched his mobile phone, and found a video of the victim's murder.

"On December 7, 2023, [Santiago] was interviewed at Phoenix Police Headquarters. [Santiago] confirmed he communicated with the victim using the Snapchat account," investigators wrote. "Leonardo admitted he shot and killed the victim. [Santiago] confirmed he recorded the incident with his cellular device."

Santiago, according to investigators, eventually said the "motive for shooting and killing the victim was to be recognized by others in the North Side XV gang, money, and marijuana."

"[Santiago] also said he told the victim to ‘give me everything you got,’ and pointed the handgun at the victim. The victim attempted to conceal a cellular device, possibly attempting to call for help. [Santiago] then discharged two rounds from the handgun at the victim," investigators wrote.

Phoenix Police officials have determined that the murders of Pantaleon and Castillo are unrelated to each other.

What is Santiago being accused of now?

In addition to allegations related to Panteleon's murder, Santiago is now accused of a count of 1st Degree Murder in connection with Castillo's death.

A judge has set a cash-only bond of $2 million for Santiago, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Where Castillo was found