DENVER (KDVR) – A 22-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the discovery of a stabbing victim who died in Denver’s Mar Lee neighborhood on Saturday.
Officers with the Denver Police Department were called to Sanderson Gulch Park at roughly 4:03 p.m. on Jan. 14 where a person was lying face down on the ground and appearing to be unresponsive.
DPD said that when officers arrived at the park located near the 1600 block of South Hazel Court, they found the victim and identified him as a 50-year-old Hispanic man who was suffering from multiple sharp force injuries to his torso.
Shortly thereafter at 4:19 p.m., the man was declared dead at the scene.
Roughly 90 minutes after interviewing witnesses, DPD officers were able to locate the suspect, Joshua Vargas-Belmontes, 22, on the 1500 block of South Hazel Court and took him into custody in connection with the first-degree murder investigation.
A knife was recovered during this arrest with possible blood residue on it.
Timeline of events according to DPD’s investigation
First witness’s statement
According to DPD’s Probable Cause statement, a witness who lives in the area told investigators he had been shopping at a nearby Savers and didn’t want to return home yet, so he decided to walk to the park instead.
He was walking along Hazel Court when he saw a man acting aggressively and standing over the victim while holding a cinderblock.
The witness told investigators that the suspect, who was a Hispanic man with a shaved head and was wearing a blue Adidas jacket with white stripes on the sleeves, then followed him while continuing to act aggressively.
After that, the witness told DPD that the suspect, who would later be identified as Vargas-Belmontes, was repeatedly asking him what he was doing there, where was he going and where did he live.
Vargas-Belmontes also allegedly said he was going to follow him all while getting close to him, taking the witness’s headphones off of his head and throwing them.
Instead of returning to his home out of fear of showing Vargas-Belmontes where he lived, the witness instead walked across the street from his residence and entered a Walgreens, where he said he tried to hide in the aisles.
Vargas-Belmontes then allegedly entered the Walgreens and began speaking with the clerk. After Vargas-Belmontes left the store, the clerk told the witness Vargas-Belmontes said he was looking for him. Photographs from the store’s surveillance footage were eventually used to identify Vargas-Belmontes.
According to the witness, he saw Vargas-Belmontes walking north on Federal before turning east on Florida Avenue.
According to the Probable Cause statement, the witness then returned to his home before heading back to the park to check on the victim, as “he was worried about his condition.”
When the witness returned to Sanderson Gulch Park, he saw a man and a woman near the victim with emergency vehicles and personnel.
Additional witnesses’ statements
According to DPD’s Probable Cause statement, the man and woman that were at the park with emergency personnel had been walking their dog when a “possibly homeless” couple approached them, asking to use a phone in order to call the police because the man lying face down was possibly dead.
The potentially homeless couple then told the dog-walking couple that they did not want to contact the police and left the scene before officers arrived.
All witnesses were then taken to the Denver Police Headquarters, and shortly thereafter, Vargas-Belmontes was identified in a photographic lineup.
DPD said that at roughly 9:14 p.m. on Saturday, investigators attempted to interview Vargas-Belmontes but he refused to speak. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty.
The investigation additionally uncovered that earlier on Saturday, Vargas-Belmontes was seen breaking into a vehicle close to the scene of the stabbing. Paperwork left in that vehicle was connected back to Vargas-Belmontes.
If you have any information that could help investigators, you are asked to contact the Metro Denver Crime Stoppers by dialing 720-913-7867.
This is a developing story and FOX31 will provide updates as they are made public.