Testimony: Brother key in burned body murder

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Based on two taped interviews, Gwinnett detectives have no doubt that Boris Mejia murdered a college-bound Stone Mountain teen last month.

They remain extraordinarily baffled, however, as to why the diminutive 18-year-old would kill his friend and former classmate.

"We've heard stuff from three or four different people about three or four different motives," Gwinnett police Detective J. Rowell said outside Mejia's probable cause hearing Tuesday morning.

In Mejia's first extended court appearance, Rowell testified that police caught a huge break in the case when Mejia's older brother, Bryan Castillo, 19, came forward nearly a week after Andrea Nassos' body turned up in her scorched Honda Accord, parked in a back lot of Gwinnett's Lucky Shoals Park.

Castillo told police he witnessed his brother place Nassos' body in the vehicle, after their father discouraged Mejia from burying the body in his Tucker backyard. Authorities said Mejia's father, Ignacio Mejia, 51, then drove his middle son to Houston, where they have family.

Texas authorities caught Mejia a couple of days later, and he admitted to Houston police in a taped interview he drove Nassos' car into the park and set it ablaze "as a means to destroy the evidence," Rowell testified. Gwinnett authorities taped interviews with Castillo that implicate his brother as the killer.

An autopsy showed Nassos, 18, suffered blunt-force trauma to the head but could have been otherwise injured. The autopsy ruled out gunshot or stab wounds. Castillo told metro Atlanta media his brother admitted to strangling Nassos, but gave no reason why.

For his role, Ignacio Mejia is charged in DeKalb with hindering the apprehension of a criminal and tampering with evidence, authorities said.

To get the fire going, Mejia ignited clothes and paper that included graduation notices, testified Gwinnett Fire Department Arson Investigator Charlie Bryson. Nassos had recently graduated Faith Academy after attending Tucker High School with Mejia, where the two were described as friends.

Bryson charged Mejia with criminal damage to county property because the blazing car melted a patch of asphalt about the size of a parking space. Criminal trespass charges stem from Mejia driving the car into the park after 11 p.m. closing. A patrol officer said the car was not there during a 2 a.m. patrol, Bryson testified.

Firefighters dousing the smoldering car cracked the Honda's trunk and found the skeletonized remains.

After Mejia's attorney, Jerome Lee, posed no argument, Gwinnett Magistrate Judge Gene Cantrell bound all charges against Mejia to Superior Court for indictment.

Rowell said Mejia will next be transferred to face murder charges in DeKalb County, where authorities believe Nassos was killed in her Tucker apartment.

"It's the kind of crime they write books and make movies about," the detective said.