Police charge man with beating death

LAWRENCEVILLE - Police believe an early morning fight led to the death of a man whose body was found in a Lawrenceville ditch Sunday afternoon.

Gwinnett police arrested 23-year-old Flavio Garay Pena, of Lawrenceville, Monday, saying he inflicted "blunt force trauma" to a man's head until he died.

Police identified the victim Monday as David Cruz, 22, of Lawrenceville. An investigator said the two men were "mildly acquainted."

Cpl. Illana Spellman, spokeswoman for Gwinnett police, said it was unclear exactly how Pena allegedly killed the man.

"Whether a weapon was used or not is still under investigation," Spellman said.

Police found the body in a ditch at 75 Arnold Road, which is located off U.S. Highway 29, when a passerby called 911 Sunday afternoon.

But police had already responded to the area about 12 hours prior.

About 3:30 a.m. Sunday, a resident called 911 to report three males "that appeared to be drunk and fighting," Spellman said. Police arrested Pena and a second man, 18-year-old Mario Palomo-Lopez, for disorderly conduct.

Investigators linked the fight to the slaying after the body was found and they had interviewed both men in jail, Spellman said.

Based on the interviews, investigators had probable cause to charge Pena with murder. He remains in the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond.

Jail records show the arrest is Pena's first in Gwinnett County. He was employed as a construction worker, according to records.

Palomo-Lopez was charged with disorderly conduct but was cleared in the slaying, Spellman said.

The Saturday homicide marked Gwinnett's fifth in a week. Police had reported four shooting deaths since Oct. 27 in Lawrenceville and Snellville.

The latest homicide bumps the county's running total this year to 46 - higher than 2006's record mark of 40.