Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas

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On November 2, 2020, unidentified individuals shot and killed Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas while he was driving his motorcycle in Cajeme, a town in Sonora state, according to news reports.

On November 6, authorities arrested a suspect in the killing, who on November 8 pled guilty to murder in an abbreviated trial, similar to a plea bargain, according to local news reports.

Those reports said the suspect, identified by the Sonora state prosecutor’s office in a November 6 Facebook statement as Francisco Bernardo “N.,” alias “El Foca,” was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The article and the prosecutor’s office’s statement did not include details on the motive of the killing, or whether any other suspects were linked to the crime.

According to Poncho Margaro, a former coworker and personal friend of the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via phone, Piñuelas founded Zarathustra Press, which publishes reports on Facebook, and the blog El Shock de la Noticia. According to CPJ’s review of his recent news stories, Piñuelas reported on crime and security in Cajeme, including the murder of a municipal police officer.

Margaro told CPJ that he had last spoken with Piñuelas the week before his killing, and that he was unaware of any threats against the journalist’s life. He said that Piñuelas often responded to tips, suggesting that the journalist may have gone to the neighborhood where he was shot to follow-up on reports of gunshots in the area a few hours before.

Cajeme had seen an uptick in violence at the time of Piñuelas’ killing, as criminal gangs have been engaged in a turf war in the city, according to news reports.

A spokesperson for the Sonora state prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request by CPJ for comment sent via messaging app.