Suspect in Mount Ulla murder arrested in Virginia
A man wanted in the Sept. 23 shooting death of a Mount Ulla dairy worker was arrested in Virginia Sunday night.
Balmore Merino, 38, of Iredell County was being held without bond while awaiting extradition back to Rowan County for the murder of Parra “Pollo” Policarpio, 43, of 2045 Mount Tabor Church Road, according to Capt. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
After obtaining information that Merino had fled to the Fairfax area of northern Virginia, Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators contacted authorities in Virginia and were able to get the U.S Marshals Service involved in the manhunt. Sifford said U.S. marshals ó acting on tips from information gathered in the Rowan investigation ó developed several possible locations for Merino, all of which were placed under constant surveillance.
On Sunday night, they were able to locate and arrest Merino on a first-degree murder charge. He may also face federal charges for illegal re-entry to the United States after a previous deportation and weapon charges.
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a task force including the local agencies of Suffolk Police, Prince William’s Police and Fairfax County Police also assisted in the manhunt and arrest, the Rowan Sheriff’s Office said.
The shooting, reported to the Rowan 911 Center at 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, happened in front of a mobile home at 2065 Mount Tabor Church Road on the Amity Hills Farm where Policarpio had worked for about three weeks. Though investigators have not released a possible motive for the murder, Sifford said the two men “were known to each other.”
Merino fled the scene in a Ford van, which authorities found abandoned a short time later on Triplett Road not far from where the shooting occurred.
Rowan-Salisbury School System officials locked down several schools in the area at the request of the Sheriff’s Office while investigators searched for Merino, who left the scene with the alleged murder weapon in his possession.
The following day, Merino’s estranged wife, Mirna Del Carmen Guevara ó who lived in the mobile home in front of which the shooting took place and witnessed the murder ó was charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder and placed under a $200,000 secured bond.
Sheriff George Wilhelm said after her arrest that she told officers initially that she did not know the identity of the shooter when in fact he was her estranged husband and she talked with him by cell phone a few hours after the shooting.
Merino moved to several different locations during that time, Wilhelm said, and was aided by Guevara in eluding arrest.
Lonnie Hoffner, the owner of Amity Hills Farm, also witnessed the shooting. He was operating a piece of farm machinery when he heard someone shout behind him and turned to see a man point the gun at Policarpio and fire.
The farmer drove into some nearby woods to get away from the gunman and called 911 on a cell phone. Rowan investigators brought in police dogs to aid in the search, and the N.C. Highway Patrol and Iredell County deputies also assisted.
Court documents show Merino, who is believed to be from Guatemala, has used a number of aliases and was convicted of a sex offense against a child in 2007 and had been deported from the United States at least once previously.
In July 2004, Rowan investigators obtained warrants charging him with the first-degree rape of a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted in July 2007 of a lesser felony offense of taking indecent liberties with a child and served 15 to 18 months in the Rowan County Detention Center, according to court documents.
The records also show that around the time of that incident, Merino lived on Mount Tabor Church Road.
Authorities ask anyone with further information regarding the murder investigation to contact Sgt. Chad Moose of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8687.