Records: Man killed in stabbing was target of drug deal setup

(From left to right) Cornelio Mata Jr, Stephen Santos, and Jeffrey Vargas Estremera.

Edinburg police investigators believe 34-year-old resident orchestrated a scheme to set up the sale of a pound of cocaine in an effort to rob a man of $11,000, according to a probable cause affidavit.

That alleged effort ended with the fatal stabbing of 29-year-old Yadiel Miguel Morales, of South Carolina, who was apparently stabbed with his own knife, and the shooting of Santos and 24-year-old Elsa resident Jeffrey Manuel Vargas, who went to the Texas Inn with Morales before being shot with his own weapon during a struggle with Santos, according to charging documents in the case.

Police responded to the hotel on 1210 E. Canton Road at 3:12 p.m. June 3 in reference to the stabbing. Morales died the following morning, police say.

He had multiple stab wounds to the left and upper right side of his body, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Authorities also arrested 26-year-old Hidalgo resident Cornelio Mata Jr., who was with Santos during the supposed drug exchange, authorities say.

At a Monday news conference, Edinburg police spokeswoman Arielle Benedict said no drugs were recovered at the crime scene.

Both Mata and Santos are charged with capital murder while Estremera is charged with the attempted murder of Santos.

Police found Morales lying on the ground by a stairway when they arrived at the scene and later arrested Santos after a vehicle chase.

Investigators were able to recover surveillance video from the Texas Inn that captured a picture of a black Dodge Charger leaving the hotel at a high rate of speed after Morales had been discovered, according to the charging document.

An officer found the Charger traveling westbound in the 200 block of East FM 2812 and attempted to pull it over. A chase down FM 2812 to Seminary Road and then east on Ingle Road ensued, according to the charging document.

Santos caused an accident in the 200 block of West Ingle and police arrested Santos, authorities say.

When taken into custody, Santos told authorities he had been shot in his right leg at the Texas Inn, the charging document stated.

Another officer responded to the South Texas Health System ER in Alamo and found Estremera, who had been shot in both legs, according to the probable cause affidavit, which states he told police he had been shot at the Texas Inn.

He also told police Morales had been stabbed, authorities say.

Investigators reviewing surveillance video saw Santos and a man later identified as Mata walking out of a room at the hotel, the charging document stated.

“Shortly after, Stephen and Cornelio walk out, Jeffrey walked out of the room followed by Yadiel who was crawling on the floor out of the room,” the probable cause affidavit stated.

Police say in the charging document that they learned Santos had agreed to sell Morales the cocaine and orchestrated a scheme to steal $11,000 from the man.

Estremera told police he had gone with Morales to buy the cocaine and carried a gun, police say.

“During the interview, Jeffrey states that he got into a struggle with Stephen, and he shoots his gun twice,” the probable cause affidavit stated.

Mata told police he began fighting with Morales, who had a knife, according to authorities.

“Cornelio states that as he is fighting with Yadiel, someone shoots a weapon inside of the room,” the probable cause affidavit stated. “Cornelio states that after the altercation, he sees Yadiel bleeding, and grabs a bag containing money as he walks out of the room.”

All three men remain jailed.

Estremera is being held on a $500,000 bond for attempted murder. Mata is being held on a $1 million bond for capital murder while Santos remains jailed on $1.1 million in bonds on charges of capital murder and evading arrest.