Mariah Lopez, a 13-year-old, was decapitated and her grandmother, Oralia Mendoza, was also killed. Investigators now believe the case has connections to a drug cartel.
The details of the grisly slaying were detailed in an Alabama court during a preliminary hearing for Yoni Aguilar, 26, according to The Associated Press.
Aguilar kept tight-lipped as he entered the courtroom.
Two days later, Palomino and Aguilar took Mendoza and her granddaughter, who was disabled, to Moon Cemetery under the guise that they were being taken someplace safe.
Aguilar told investigators that he, Mendoza, Palomino, and another woman traveled to Georgia in early June to pick up a kilo of methamphetamine. From there authorities learned the 13-year-old's grandmother was her primary guardian and was also missing.
Palomino and Aguilar both went willingly to be interviewed by investigators.
Police say they found two knives tied to the murders: one under Palomino's mattress, and the other under Aguilar's. Mendoza's was found a week later at a cemetery.
Authorities believe the murders happened on June 4. She had been stabbed to death. Investigators say he told them that he was sitting in the passenger seat while Palomino and Mendoza were outside talking. Palomino killed Mendoza, Aguilar told investigators, and drove off with the girl in the back seat of the auto. Mendoza was Mariah's main guardian. Mariah was on the autism spectrum.
Officials allege that Mendoza, who was the girlfriend of Aguilar, had links to the powerful Mexico-based Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the world, according to AP.
Some of the victims family were inside the courtroom Thursday. During their journey, Aguilar claims that something went wrong.
"Despite the men's cleanup efforts, blood was also found in Palomino's auto", one investigator reported.
The two men became suspicious of a double-cross when Palomino discovered that the grandma had removed a SIM card from her cell phone, and had sent texts to a mystery number during the drug run to Georgia, cops said.