A week after 68-year-old Marcelino Mueces was reported missing, police found his gray, 2005 Ford F150 truck on the side of Worcester’s Villa Nova Street on Feb. 26.
An investigation led them to Thomas Garon Jr., a 53-year-old Penn Avenue resident, who allegedly told them he drove the truck there himself “because he knew (Mueces) would never return,” police wrote in a report filed in Worcester District Court this week.
Days later, investigators found Mueces’s body buried in a shallow grave in Garon’s basement, officials say.
Now, Garon, arrested Tuesday, faces charges of disinterment of a body, identity theft, and misleading a police investigation as Mueces’s family searches for answers.
“I’m here because I really want justice to be served, and to know that he wasn’t alone — that he had a family, and the family is going to be missing him, and we have lost,” Yolanda Lopez, who was in a longterm relationship with Mueces, told reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday. “We have a very big loss.”
Here’s what we know so far:
Meuces was last seen alive the morning of Feb. 18, police say
Meuces, who lived on Lovell Street, was last seen alive on the morning of Feb. 18 around 9 a.m., according to a post police wrote on Facebook asking for the public’s help in finding him.
“He left his Main Street job to meet up with someone in the Honeywell [Street] area but did not arrive there,” authorities wrote.
At the time, he was wearing black boots; blue jeans; a short-sleeve, light-blue shirt with a navy blue hooded sweatshirt over it; a gray Red Sox hat; and a black winter coat, officials said. The post also mentions his Ford pickup truck.
Mueces was reported missing later that day, according to a statement of facts filed for the case obtained by Boston.com.
The two men apparently knew each other, according to Garon
After police located Mueces’s truck, their investigation led them to Garon, according to the report written by Det. William Donovan.
During an interview with investigators, Garon said he knew Mueces because Mueces sold him drugs, Donovan wrote.
“Garon had multiple and inconsistent stories of when the last time he had seen the victim, and finally stated that he did see the victim on the day he went missing,” the report says.
He told police that Mueces had pulled up to the front of his house before he got into another vehicle “with a person Garon did not want in his house,” Donovan wrote.
“Garon stated that he had no conversation with the victim on that date and that the victim was not in his home. He then said he went and drove away the victim’s vehicle because he knew he would never be back,” Donovan wrote. “Garon then claimed he did it hours later and then he said he drove it away the next day because he knew he would never return.”
According to the report, detectives spent days trying to gather video footage and other evidence based upon their interview with Garon.
Thomas C. Garon Jr., 54, of Worcester is arraigned at Central District Court on charges of disinterment of a body, identity theft and misleading a police investigation.@BLeeTG @telegramdotcom pic.twitter.com/RmbW8Br3Od
— Allan Jung 🏳️🌈 (@ajungTGphoto) March 6, 2019
Garon cashed Mueces’s last pay check, officials say
According to police, Garon and another unidentified man cashed Mueces’s pay check the same day authorities discovered his truck.
In his report, Donovan wrote that the investigation revealed Garon had both Mueces’s ID and his last pay check, given to Mueces the day he went missing.
Authorities allege Garon drove with the other man over to the Check Depot on Madison Street in Worcester, where he had the other man cash the check on his behalf.
“The male who did this suffers from a traumatic brain injury,” Donovan wrote. “After the male came out, he gave all the money and the identification back to Garon.”
Police found Mueces’s body in Garon’s basement on Saturday
Authorities received a search warrant for Garon’s apartment, a triple-decker building in the city’s Oak Hill area, which they carried out on March 2.
There, in the basement of the building, law enforcement officials found a body buried in a “shallow grave,” Donovan wrote.
“Evidence uncovered during the course of this investigation indicated that the body had been moved several times before being buried in Garon’s cellar,” he wrote. “The cellar, according to Garon, and his sister, who lives part time in the third floor apartment of the house, is a place where Thomas Garon keeps his things and that she does not utilize the cellar and has not been in there in over a month.”
In a statement Tuesday, police said the body was later identified as Mueces. An autopsy was performed by the Medical Examiner’s office and an official finding on the cause and manner of his death is pending, officials said.
“Mr. Mueces did suffer injuries, so it’s not a homicide at this time,” Worcester police Lt. Sean Murtha told reporters at a press conference. “We certainly would classify it as a suspicious death.”
Garon has been held without bail
In court for an arraignment hearing Wednesday, Garon went before Judge Michael Allard Madaus, who ordered he be held without bail pending the outcome of a dangerousness hearing slated for Friday, court records show.
Attorney Blake Rubin, who represented Garon, told Allard Madaus that Garon’s criminal history included mostly misdemeanor charges, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports.
Rubin submitted motions for the preservation of evidence in the case and for money to hire an investigator, according to the newspaper.
“This case might be a forensic case,” Rubin said. “I have no idea at this point if there’s any forensic evidence out there. It could be exculpatory for my client. I want to make sure that’s saved so I can hire my own experts to have them tested, if necessary.”
Mueces was a quiet man who called often, his family said
An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Mueces was a father of seven and had seven grandchildren, WBZ reports.
According to Lopez, Mueces was “very quiet” but kept in touch with his family often.
Trying to make sense of what happened, she described him as “a guy who calls his daughters every two hours after getting out of school,” according to WBZ.
“He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” Lopez told the station. “It’s hard, especially the way things ended up.”