HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A Huntsville man accused in an alleged drug cartel double murder is now set for a plea hearing on a lesser charge.
Israel Palomino was set to go on trial on Dec. 5 for the deaths of Oralia Mendoza and her granddaughter, Mariah Lopez, in June 2018.
The plea hearing for Palomino is now set for Oct. 26.
Palomino and another man, Yoni Aguilar, were both charged in the killings. Prosecutors had announced they planned to seek the death penalty for both men, but the plea offer would take that off the table.
Murder charges in Alabama can carry a sentence between 20 years and life in prison.
Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall issued the plea hearing order Tuesday.
The bodies were found at separate locations in Owens Crossroads after a county-wide search.
Madison County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Stacy Rutherford testified at a preliminary hearing in July 2018 that the murders were related to Mendoza’s ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel and that Lopez was beheaded after witnessing Mendoza being stabbed, according to AL.com.
Lawyers in the case have been under a gag order since July 2018.