CASA GRANDE — The families of Leslie Cota and Danielle Murrieta have expressed relief amongst the ongoing grieving process as an almost weeklong search for a suspect in their killings finally led to an arrest.

The Casa Grande Police Department announced Saturday that it had arrested 18-year-old Terrance Xavier Santistevan in connection with the double homicide of 17-year-old Murrieta and 18-year-old Cota on April 24.

Cota’s cousin, Daniel Avilez, told PinalCentral the news was welcome to the grieving families.

“Both of the mothers, Claudia (Sanchez) and Janie (Murrieta), they are completely heartbroken at this tragedy that has happened,” Avilez said. “There was some relief at the news about the guy who got caught. It doesn’t change the dynamic, but there is relief. All we want now is justice.”

Avilez said the families are extremely grateful for the efforts of local and interstate law enforcement agencies.

“On behalf of both families, I would like to say thank you to both the Casa Grande Police Department, the Pflugerville Police Department in Texas and to U.S. marshals,” Avilez said. “Thank you for taking this guy off the streets and for making our lives a little more easier.”

On Sunday, Avilez and sister Araceli Mejia were on hand at the Hideout Steakhouse & BBQ fundraiser for the Cota and Murrieta families. The community response to the initiative has been overwhelming, with the restaurant selling over 1,200 take-home plates.

Restaurant staff and some 45 volunteers, including members of the Casa Grande FFA (of which Murrieta was a member), were on-hand busily offering assistance to ensure the 1,200 meals were handed out in a timely manner.

Another fundraiser for the Cota and Murrieta families was held by new hairdressing salon Nation of Barbers, located at 1355 E. Florence Blvd. The salon held its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday morning with master barber Syisha Hayes telling the gathered crowd that her salon would be donating 15% of their takings including separate donations.

The funeral services for both girls will be held this week. Murrieta’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Passion Church, 501 E. Kortsen Road.

The funeral service for Cota will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Helen of the Cross Catholic Church, 205 W. Eighth St. in Eloy. Her viewing will start at 4 p.m. on Thursday at J. Warren Funeral Services, Valley Chapel in Eloy.

CGPD detectives continue to search for Santistevan’s 2006 silver Chrysler 300, which was bearing Arizona license plate 9DA2MG, and ask the public to continue to forward any relevant information regarding this investigation, including the vehicle’s whereabouts, to Detective Tisa Ellsworth at, 520-421-8711, ext. 6294, or report anonymously to Silent Witness at 520-836-2100.


Jodie Newell is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. She can be reached at

(2) comments


How fantastic, this community support from Hideaway and Nation's. And others we may not have heard about. Not to mention the Casa Grande Police Department, I am proud of this little town. Yet so sorry for these families.


I agree. More often than not, CGPD gets their man.

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