Two co-defendants arrested in connection with the double homicide of two men found in a burning pickup truck pleaded not guilty Thursday in Spalding County Superior Court.
Erik Eduardo Cabrea Lopez was the first suspect to be arrested after the bodies of Joshua Wyatt and Carlos Benford were found April 13 in a pickup fully engulfed in flames in a field off of Jackson Road in Spalding County.
Wyatt and Benford were reported missing April 11 by their families after the two had reportedly left Henry County to meet someone in Spalding County. That was the last time the two victims were seen by their families, Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix said at a press conference following Cabrea Lopez’s arrest.
Cabrea Lopez, 30, pleaded not guilty to two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, two counts of concealing the deaths of another, two counts of felony tampering with evidence, two counts of kidnapping and first-degree arson.
A Spalding County grand jury in August indicted Cabrea Lopez and Eric Butler in connection with the case.
Butler entered a not guilty plea to two counts of concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.
According to the indictment, Cabrea Lopez is facing murder charges for reportedly shooting Benford and Wyatt inside a Dutchman Road residence.
Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Gerald Phillips said after Cabrea Lopez’s arrest that there were conflicting stories as to why the two victims were at the Dutchman Road house. One story has the two men looking to rent a venue for a rap concert. Another story is the victims were meeting someone for the remodeling of a basement.
Cabrea Lopez is charged with kidnapping for allegedly holding Wyatt and Benford against their will, which resulted in bodily injury to the two men, the indictment states.
Butler and Cabrea Lopez reportedly attempted to conceal the two deaths by placing the bodies in the bed of a pickup and then setting the truck on fire, according to the indictment. Investigators believe the vehicle fire was intentionally set with a type of accelerant, Dix added.
A bail hearing was originally scheduled to be held Thursday for Alicia Milagros Rojo Sanchez, the second suspect to face murder charges in the case.
Sanchez, 24, is also charged with two counts of robbery, two counts of tampering with evidence, two counts of concealing the deaths of another, and three counts of arson.
Thursday’s hearing for Sanchez was continued until Oct. 5 in order for attorney Barry Debrow to meet with Sanchez.
Dix said SCSO Capt. Keith Massengale and Phillips traveled July 26 to meet FBI agents in Temecula, California, in an attempt to find Sanchez.
Investigators were then able to track Sanchez to several residences in the Temecula area. Based on information gathered in interviews, investigators were able to allegedly tie Sanchez to the murders, Dix said.
“We spoke with different family members of the deceased and other people who mentioned Alicia repeatedly as the contact for either setting up a venue for a rap concert for Carlos (Benford) or doing some remodel work in Joshua’s (Wyatt) case on a house he had just bought in Stockbridge,” states a criminal arrest warrant for Sanchez.
She allegedly told her father at a family gathering held in April that she needed money because she was wanted in Georgia for murder, the warrant states.
Sanchez and her boyfriend were arrested Aug. 21 in Chamblee for reportedly driving in a stolen car, the warrant states. She was then transferred to the Spalding County Jail.
During an interview with investigators, an arrest warrant states Sanchez reportedly admitted to bringing Wyatt and Benford to the Dutchman Road residence “under the guise of conducting a drug transaction, which ultimately led to their demise and them being robbed” of $60,000 that reportedly belonged to Benford.
“This was the worst crime I have ever seen and these young men and their families deserve justice,” Dix said.