Tahlequah Daily Press

May 8, 2013

Murder-for-hire scheme draws charges for man

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Prosecutors have filed formal charges against a man who allegedly offered to pay for the murder of his estranged wife’s boyfriend.

Jesus “Jesse” Cerda, 38, of Tahlequah, is charged with a felony count of soliciting for murder first-degree.

Cerda was arrested by members of the District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task force in April and held in jail without bond.

Investigators said Cerda approached a man earlier this year and offered to pay him $5,000 to kill the boyfriend of Cerda’s estranged wife. Cerda is accused of driving the would-be hitman to the target’s home at one point, and offering to provide a gun, a vehicle, and clothes to wear during the murder.

According to investigators, Cerda told the would-be hitman that money was no object “as long as the job is done.”

Court documents show a man called sheriff’s dispatchers March 30 and said Cerda had hired him to kill the target at a Tahlequah home, but while he was in route, the man decided not to go through with it and instead decided to notify authorities.

The man gave a name to dispatchers but wouldn’t speak to a deputy at that time.

After a search warrant was served at Cerda’s home, investigators found an identification with the name given by the man who called dispatchers March 30.

They also recovered two bags containing money; money that was on a dresser; bank withdrawal slips; a hand-written letter; and two laptop computers. Cerda’s passport was also seized during the investigation, along with a cell phone.

If convicted, Cerda could face five years to life in a state prison.

Before his arrest on the allegations or soliciting murder, Cerda was arrested in Tahlequah twice in March: once after he allegedly forced his way into a woman’s home, wielded a gun and tried to force the woman to help him find his wife; and a second time days later, when he was released from jail and was accused of trying to intimidate a witness.

Cerda has pleaded not guilty to both of the charges that resulted from his March arrests. He was set for his initial appearance Tuesday on the latest charge.