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Monday, July 16, 2018

By Julieta Chiquillo and Wendy Hundley, The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Two Wylie East High School students put “significant” planning into killing a 17-year-old classmate, according to testimony at a juvenile detention hearing Monday.

The 16-year-old boys are accused of putting Ivan Mejia in a headlock and fatally choking him Saturday night behind the high school and dumping his body in a creek in a wooded area in Garland, Texas. They face first-degree murder charges.

A romantic dispute appears to be the motive. One of the accused teens told police that Mejia was dating a girl who also had been in a relationship with the other accused teen, according to testimony.

The boys are not being named because of their age.

Citing information from a police report, Collin County juvenile probation officer Antonia Allen testified the teens had been planning the slaying since March 3. Their preparations included deciding how to lure Mejia, commit the crime and dispose of the body.

Both teens participated in choking Mejia, according to Allen’s testimony.

She said they used a sock to block his mouth while they covered his nose and kept him from breathing.

“It was premeditated,” prosecutor Kelly Ludy said. “It was callous. It was violent.”

After the killing, the teens were caught along State Highway 78 near Firewheel Town Center mall, where Garland police said the two admitted to trying to bury Mejia’s body.

When Judge Cynthia Wheless asked both teens in separate hearings whether they understood the charges, they calmly said they did.

The judge ordered that the boys be kept in detention until the next hearing.

Both teens’ parents were present in the courtroom Monday. The mother of one of the boys sobbed and squeezed the hand of her son’s father as the teen was led away in handcuffs.

Wylie Police Sgt. Donna Valdepena said at a news conference Monday that authorities are continuing to investigate the case.

“It has shaken our entire community,” she said.

A friend of Mejia’s who knew one of the suspects said she was stunned when she learned of the crime.

“I was at a loss for words. It scared me,” said the 14-year-old, who spoke on the condition that she not be publicly identified.

She told The Dallas Morning News via online messages that one suspect’s jealousy over Mejia’s longtime girlfriend was the only conceivable motive for his death. She said she did not know why the other teen would have been involved in the slaying.

Mejia’s girlfriend, a freshman, has posted online: “I love a boy that was going to be my future and worked hard to be together for 3 years and was taken away from me so easily.”

The 14-year-old friend of Mejia’s recalled him as a kind boy who was intent on becoming a Marine.