Tahlequah Daily Press

April 17, 2013

Murder-for-hire scheme spurs arrest of man

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Investigators arrested a 38-year-old Tahlequah man Tuesday morning on allegations that he tried to pay for the murder of his estranged wife’s boyfriend.

Jesus “Jesse” Cerda was booked into the Cherokee County Detention Center on a pending charge of solicitation of murder first degree.

Cerda’s arrest was a result of an investigation by the District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies, according to District Attorney Brian Kuester.

Agents said they were approached on April 2 by a man who claimed Cerda asked him to kill Cerda’s estranged wife’s boyfriend. Cerda allegedly offered the man $2,500 to pull off the murder, but the man told Cerda he would require $10,000 to do it.

Cerda then allegedly offered $5,000, with $2,500 up front and the other half after it was proved the target had been killed. Cerda also offered to provide the would-be hitman with a gun, a vehicle to drive, and clothes to wear during the murder. At one point, Cerda drove the would-be hitman to the target’s home in Tahlequah, court documents allege.

Agents also later spoke with a second man – a friend of the man Cerda tried to hire – who said he accompanied his friend to a Tahlequah casino, where they met Cerda and discussed “a job.” At the casino, Cerda explained the job was to “go to Tulsa and get rid” of his estranged wife’s boyfriend, according to investigators.

During that meeting, Cerda allegedly said money was “no object, as long as the job is done,” and added he wanted a photograph of the target’s body after he had been murdered.

Agents said a man called the sheriff’s office early on March 30 and told a dispatcher Cerda hired him to kill the same target in Tahlequah. The man told dispatchers he drove to Tahlequah with the intent of carrying out the murder, but decided he could not go through with it and instead called the sheriff’s office. The man declined to speak with a deputy at the time, according to an affidavit, but provided a name and other information.

Cerda had been arrested earlier this year when he allegedly forced his way into a woman’s home in Tahlequah. Police said Cerda broke into the home, pointed a gun at a woman and took her cell phone. He then allegedly tried to force the victim to go to Tulsa with him to find his estranged wife. He later left but was stopped and arrested by police.

A few days after his release from jail, Cerda was arrested on complaints of intimidating a witness.

A copy of the arrest warrant issued last week for Cerda indicates he is to be held for the solicitation of murder with no bond.

Kuester said a report by investigators could be turned in as soon as next week, and his office will then decide what, if any, formal charges to file against Cerda.