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Manuel Marcus SEPULVEDA





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Argument
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: November 6, 2001
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: ???
Victims profile: John Mendez and Ricardo Lopez
Method of murder: Shooting (.12 gauge shotgun) - Beating with an axe
Location: Monroe County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on January 27, 2003

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Eastern District


opinion J-170-2003

dissenting opinion J-170-2003


On November 26, 2001, Manuel Sepulveda was at the home of Daniel Heleva and Robyn Otto in Polk, Pennsylvania. Sepulveda lived with the couple and their two children.

Around 6:30 pm, John Mendez and Ricardo Lopez arrived at the house to recover two guns that Mendez claimed belonged to him. Sepulveda retrieved the guns from an upstairs bedroom and gave them to Mendez. The men then left. 

Later that night, Heleva returned to the house with Richard Boyko and discovered that the guns were missing. After Sepulveda explained to Heleva that Mendez had taken the guns, Heleva instructed Boyko to call Mendez and have him come back to the house. At this time, another man, Jimmy Frey, was in the living room watching television.

Mendez and Lopez returned to the house, but Heleva did not permit Lopez to enter. Mendez, however, came inside, where Heleva immediately accused him of stealing his guns, and the two men began fighting in the kitchen.

When this fight was resolved, Sepulveda and Lopez joined Heleva and Mendez in the kitchen, where the four men then sat around the table talking. Boyko left the house. While the men were in the kitchen, another argument erupted.

This time, Sepulveda grabbed a .12 gauge shotgun and shot Mendez in the stomach. He then turned the gun towards Lopez and shot him in the side. After Lopez collapsed on the floor, Sepulveda placed  the barrel of the shotgun on Lopez's back and again fired the weapon, killing him.

Sepulveda then chased Mendez up the stairs to the second floor of the house where he shot Mendez a second time. Although wounded, Mendez escaped from Sepulveda and Heleva and fled to a neighbor's house with Sepulveda and Heleva in pursuit.

Mendez knocked on the neighbor's front door but before anyone answered, Sepulveda and Heleva grabbed Mendez and dragged him across the lawn back to their house. Frey, who had been watching the incident, retrieved the shotgun that Sepulveda had dropped on the lawn and hid it inside a sofa in the house.

Once the men had dragged Mendez back inside, Sepulveda inflicted several blows with a hatchet, killing him.

Meanwhile, police received a 911 call from the neighbors reporting a domestic violence dispute at the home. In response, state troopers arrived and spoke to a neighbor who told them that she had heard a loud noise and a high-pitched voice screaming "help me" outside of her door and that when she looked outside, she had seen someone being dragged across her front lawn into Heleva's residence.

The troopers noticed a smear of blood on the neighbor's front door and that a wooden porch railing had been broken. On the way to Heleva's house, they noticed a bloody jacket and blood on Heleva's door.

They knocked and announced their presence and Sepulveda answered and denied knowledge of any incident, but then stated that he had been assaulted by two men. The troopers placed Sepulveda in the back of the patrol car and handcuffed him.

They still believed there was a domestic violence incident and asked Sepulveda where the woman was. Sepulveda responded, "There is no 'she.' They are in the basement. I shot them."

After additional troopers arrived on the scene, they entered the house and found the bodies of Lopez and Mendez in the basement of the residence.

Lopez was found beneath slabs of insulation and dry wall material, with his pants pulled to his ankles and Mendez was found beneath a pile of laundry, stripped naked with his thumb in his mouth and a rubber bungee cord wrapped tightly around his neck.

The troopers took Sepulveda, Heleva, Otto and the children to the police station, and also brought in Boyko and Frey. Sepulveda admitted that he shot both Mendez and Lopez twice, but claimed that he only started shooting after he believed Lopez was about to go out to his car to retrieve a gun.

Sepulveda also admitted that after Mendez ran outside following the shooting, he and Heleva dragged Mendez back inside at which time Sepulveda grabbed the hatchet and struck Mendez in the head.

In a second statement, Sepulveda stated that he had only shot Lopez once and that Heleva had shot him the second time. He said that after he shot Lopez and Mendez in the kitchen, he chased Mendez up the stairs and while struggling with him, he heard shots fired from the kitchen. He admitted shooting Mendez a second time but said it was Heleva who eventually struck him in the head with the hatchet, killing him.


Manuel Marcus Sepulveda



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