Tahlequah Daily Press

May 14, 2013

Officials release murder-for-hire tape

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County officials on Monday released a 911 recording of a caller who claimed he was asked to kill a man in Tahlequah earlier this year.

Jesus “Jesse” Cerda, 38, is jailed in Cherokee County on charges of soliciting for murder first degree. He was arrested in April after he allegedly approached two men and offered to pay them for the murder of his estranged wife’s boyfriend.

Prosecutors said one of those men made a call to dispatchers on March 30 and told them Cerda had made the request. Cherokee County 911 authorities released the recording Monday at the request of the Daily Press, after the District Attorney’s Office said the recording could not be released until Cerda had been formally charged.

In the recording, the man tells dispatchers about Cerda’s alleged quest to have a man killed.

“This guy that I know asked me if I would go murder somebody this morning, pretty much, and uh, I was going over there to tell the dude, but I wanted to let you all know before I go over there, you know,” the man said. “I’m going to go tell him that that guy asked me to do that. ... I kind of need your advice, you know what I mean?”

The caller – who provided his name – said he didn’t want to be involved, “but I don’t want to get nobody hurt, either, you know what I’m saying?”

“When I got in the car, I thought, ‘That’s kind of dumb,’ because I put myself right in middle of it, so I’m calling ya’ll to let you know, and maybe ya’ll can handle it. ... I’ll give you all the information you want,” he said.

The caller identified Cerda as the man who solicited him to commit the murder.

“I don’t know how I randomly fell into this, to tell you the truth,” the caller said. “I already drove by [the target’s home] and I’m leaving town right now because I’m talking to you and I feel better. I just didn’t want nobody to get hurt, you know what I mean?”

Dispatchers then asked the caller where Cerda lived, while trying to garner information from the caller.

“He has an office in Stilwell,” the caller said. “I used to live in Stilwell until I got into some trouble for selling pot. He lived right up the street from me and he’s a tax guy. He seemed like a decent fellow, you know; he didn’t do drugs, [was] clean-cut, a tax guy. I mean that’s pretty good for somebody that came from Mexico. I mean, I’m not prejudiced, I’m just saying he got an education and he’s got a bad--ss job.”

“As messed up as that sounds, that’s Cherokee County for you.”

According to the caller, he contacted Cerda earlier this year when his taxes had not been returned in a timely fashion.

“He’s like, ‘Well, I lost the package,’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He’s like, ‘Just come talk to me,’” the caller said.

He told dispatchers he went to see Cerda, who asked him if he knew the man Cerda allegedly wanted dead. The caller confirmed he knew the target, and used to live next to him.

“Well [Cerda’s] like, ‘I want him gone,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I want him gone.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean gone?’ [Cerda] said, ‘I want him gone,’” the caller told dispatchers. “And I’m like, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘You don’t want to kill nobody over your woman, man. If she left you, you don’t want her ... And besides, are you going to be able to live with yourself?’ And he’s just hell-bent on doing it.”

The caller then told dispatchers he expected some people would “look down” on him for calling and telling authorities about Cerda’s alleged plan, but said he didn’t care. A dispatcher assured the man he had done the right thing by calling.

“It took 10 years of prison to make me have a conscious, but I got one now,” the caller told dispatchers. “As messed up as that sounds, that’s Cherokee County for you.”

Dispatchers asked several times if they could have a deputy contact the caller. He first asked if he could bring a lawyer because he was wanted by authorities for failing to pay on some previous cases; and later asked if he could bring his wife. When dispatchers asked where the caller was and what he was driving at the time, the caller said he was outside of Tahlequah, and chuckled at the attempts to garner his information.

“Come on, ma’am, please don’t do that to me, I am – I mean, it took everything I had to [call],” he said.

Later, he told dispatchers he wasn’t trying to break the law.

“I just have my six kids. I was going to call, but I didn’t think [Cerda] was serious until now, and he’s called me like three times already... ,” he said.

Authorities allege Cerda also offered to pay another man to commit the murder. That man spoke to investigators about the plan, and provided them with details about Cerda’s request.

Cerda has pleaded not guilty and is set for a felony sounding docket June 3 at 9 a.m. in Cherokee County District Court. He has been denied bond pending the June court appearance.

A copy of the 911 recording can be played by clicking the play button on the right side of this page. The call has been edited to remove inappropriate language; and names, addresses and phone numbers of the victims and the caller.