Orlando police arrest Diana Mercado's boyfriend, Jarol Santiago, for her murder

11:29 PM, May 16, 2012   |    comments
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  • Jarol Santiago's driver's license photo. Investigators say Santiago also goes by the alias Antonio Vasquez.



ORLANDO, Fla. -- On Wednesday, May 16, Orlando Police Officers and Orange County Sheriff's deputies located Jarol Santiago, 40, who was the boyfriend of murder victim Diana Mercado.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for his arrest, then PCSO Homicide detectives brought Santiago to PCSO, interviewed him, and placed him under arrest for First Degree Murder.

According to the affidavit, Diana Mercado, 33, was reported missing on April 28 by her sister, Vanessa Rosado.

Related Story: Woman stabbed to death, boyfriend sought

Rosado reported her missing when Mercado's manager at Dunkin' Donuts left a message saying that Mercado never arrived for her scheduled 6 a.m. shift.

Santiago told the sister that Mercado left for work around 5:30 a.m., and that her car was nowhere to be found. 

The next day, Mercado's extended family found her 1999, black Chrysler Cirrus in a Publix Parking lot at 6767 U.S. Highway 98 in Lakeland, with her purse, car keys, and cell phone locked inside. 

Around 4 p.m. the following day, PCSO personnel found Mercado's body covered by a black tarp, a blue pool cover, and wood debris in a wooded area behind her home. 

An autopsy conducted by the Medical Examiner's Office revealed that Mercado suffered multiple stab wounds and had broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and a fractured left clavicle. This lead the doctor to believe she was murdered. 

Jarol Santiago was interviewed twice on April 29 before Mercado's body was found. He provided a Puerto Rican ID and said his name was Antonio Vasquez. 

He also said he last saw Mercado when she was leaving for work on Saturday, April 28, and that he was supposed to go with her, but she left without him because he woke up late. 

After being taken into custody on May 16, Santiago's story changed. 

In his post-Miranda interview, Santiago stated that he woke up that morning when Mercado was getting ready and got into an argument with her. He said she did not want him to ride along to work, but that he went anyway.

He said that while Mercado was driving the car, she stabbed herself. He then claimed that he and Mercado exited the vehicle, she fell, and the vehicle ran her over. 

He told PCSO that he picked her up, put her in the car, drove her home, and then hid her body in the wooded area behind the residence. He stated that afterwards he drove the car to the Publix parking lot and parked it behind the Wells Fargo Bank. He said he threw the knife out on the way and rode his bike home. 

According to PCSO, Santiago is enroute to being booked at the Polk County Jail.

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