L-R: Jeanette Lea Clifton, Serenity Delgado, and Cruz Isaiah Martinez appear in booking photos. (Pasadena (Tex.) Police Department)
Three teenagers in Texas are facing multiple felony charges over the dead body of another teenager found in a suburban park late last week.
The deceased teenager’s corpse was partially hidden, in a half-hearted and panicked effort, after a planned robbery went sideways in the dark as the participants fled the scene upon the grim realization of what, exactly, the scheme entailed, a criminal complaint suggests.
Jeanette Lea Clifton, 18, Serenity Delgado, 17, and Cruz Isaiah Martinez, 18, each stand accused of one count each of capital murder in the death of Nathaniel Navarro, 19. The victim was found by his mother, shot to death at Satsuma Park in Pasadena, on Nov. 2.
Navarro’s worried mother tracked her son’s cellphone to the park that night and confirmed the identification, according to the Pasadena Police Department. In court documents obtained by Law&Crime, multiple other witnesses offered details about the fatal gun violence that occurred in Harris County’s second-largest city.
One witness called police the same night Navarro’s body was found and reported a shooting. That witnessed said multiple shots were fired, then a car crashed into a tree, then two people carried a body to the corner of the park, according to the detailed criminal complaint filed against Clifton. The reporting officer found a black 2008 Cadillac with front end damage and noticed the presence of blood outside the car in the parking lot – along with a spent cartridge casing nearby.
The first witness, in a follow-up interview, told police he heard three “pops” before the sound of the car crash. After that, he looked out his window and saw two people standing outside of the black Cadillac. The witness said the two individuals got into the car and drove it through the parking lot before getting out and carrying “what he believed to be big car parts at first.” Those presumed car parts, of course, were actually Navarro’s body. Those two individuals then took smaller items from the car and left the park, the witness told police.
Surveillance footage shows three people entering the park at 1:13 a.m., the complaint says. Navarro can be seen driving up to the trio at 1:33 a.m. – followed by a quick succession of four gunshots. Then, the dying man’s car accelerates and slams into a tree. After that, the three leave the area, police say.
“A short time later, two individuals return to the Cadillac CTS and move the vehicle,” the criminal complaint says. “The two individuals exit the car and drag an unknown object from the vehicle. The two individuals then struggle dragging this object from the car towards the southeast corner of the park.”
The “unknown object” was later determined to be the victim’s body.
Separate surveillance footage shows one of the three defendants walking into the park with a shovel in their hand, police claim.
Clifton was later seen, blood on her face and clothes and wearing a hoodie, on a third piece of surveillance footage police retrieved from a gas station, the complaint says. Law enforcement knew to retrieve that particular footage after a woman came forward to describe her interaction with the defendant – who asked her for a ride to La Porte. After getting into the woman’s car, however, the driver said she didn’t have enough gas to go that far, so Clifton allegedly got out and left.
Just before midnight on Nov. 2, Clifton turned herself in to police, the complaint says. She allegedly admitted to being with a friend, Delgado, and Delgado’s ex-boyfriend, Cruz, as the killing occurred. Clifton allegedly told police that Cruz shot the man in the black car after the car drove up to them in the park.
Clifton allegedly told police she ran away at that point and then climbed a chainlink fence that cut her face and legs, causing her to bleed all over herself, according to the complaint.
Later, Clifton allegedly said, after failing to get a ride back home from a woman at a gas station, her friends saw her walking and she got back into the Ford truck that Cruz was driving.
The other two suspects were arrested first. Clifton’s willingness to come forward netted her two days outside of a jail cell.
Following an interview with Delgado, police came to believe the trio had acted in concert – planning to rob Navarro of his “drugs, money, and car,” according to the criminal complaint.
In a second interview, Clifton confessed to a more direct role in the incident, police claim. The defendant allegedly said she was made aware of the robbery plan the day before during breakfast.
“[Clifton] said her job was to bring a shovel to dig a hole and bury the [victim] after they robbed him and killed him,” the complaint reads. “[Clifton] said she was also to pick up any shell casings at the scene.”
On the night leading into the early morning of the crime, one of the defendants messaged Navarro on social media, asking to buy marijuana, police say. During the drug deal, Delgado paid for the marijuana with fake money, then Cruz shot and killed him. The plan to steal Navarro’s car was abandoned after the damage it suffered in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the complaint says.
Cruz and Delgado were turned into police in Houston by Delgado’s mother after they both allegedly told her what they had done – allegedly using a Smith & Wesson 40 owned by Delgados’ mother.
Delgado would go on to tell police that her ex-boyfriend had been discussing robbing Navarro for several days. Later, Cruz would allegedly say the plan was finally hatched just the day before.
In various interviews, law enforcement claim, Cruz and Delgado confessed as well. Cruz, at first, was hesitant to talk and declined to speak, police say. Eventually, all three teens waived their Miranda rights and more or less confirmed various details provided by one another.
Clifton, Delgado and Cruz are also charged with one count each of tampering with evidence – human corpse, according Harris County court records reviewed by Law&Crime. Clifton faces an additional charge of tampering with or fabricating evidence with the intent to impair an investigation. Martinez was on pre-trial release for one count each of DUI and unlawful possession of a firearm at the time of Navarro’s murder.
The defendants were due back in court on Tuesday. They are being held in the Harris County Jail. Prosecutors have filed court orders to requests they all remain separated.
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