UTICA --- The federal case against a pair indicted for having pounds of meth in Cortlandville appeared Tuesday before a judge in Utica — a judge that could ultimately sentence one of the duo to death for an additional federal murder charge.
Kyle M. Leeper, 36, of Palmyra, PA, and Arlene Rodriguez, age 36, of Montebello, CA., were arrested by Cortland Sheriff’s deputies on Feb. 19, 2019, in Cortlandville, and are facing a federal indictment with Ramon Nieves Cotto, age 28, of DeRuyter. Cotto was not arrested in the drug bust in the Big Lots parking lot on Route 281, but was indicted for aiding Leeper in the murder of a man in Barstow, CA, according to the Department of Justice.
All three were working together as part of a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Leeper and Rodrguez had four pounds of meth in their vehicle when it was stopped for being unregistered, according to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators also found a loaded handgun in the vehicle, as well as 15 grams of marijuana and “an undisclosed amount of US currency,” according to a Sheriff’s Office news release.
In court Tuesday, lawyers for the prosecution and the defendants discussed pretrial motions and agreed to to extend speedy trial deadlines, according to federal court documents. The lawyers will appear next at 1 p.m. June 10 and the defendants are not required to attend, according to the documents.
“There’s various matters that have to be addressed by the defense counsel,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard R. Southwick in a phone interview this afternoon, adding the next court date will be a status check-in for the attorneys on the case.
Leeper and Cotto are accused of murdering Robert Allen Chavez of Baldwin Park, Los Angeles County, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Chavez was discovered by electrical workers on Jan. 23, 2019, in the California desert, according to a Barstow Police Department news release. Detectives determined Chavez was murdered “based on the evidence on the scene,” according to the release.
Kyle Leeper shot and killed Chavez almost a week earlier, on Jan. 17, 2019, as part of a conspiracy to distribute meth, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Cotto “aided and abetted” Leeper with the murder, according to the release.
A U.S. Marshal in Syracuse confirmed Cotto is in custody, but no further information regarding his arrest could be obtained this afternoon.
The four pounds of meth found with Leeper and Rodriguez in Syracuse was worth more than $100,000, according to the most recent figures available from the Drug Enforcement Administration. One gram of meth cost about $56 in 2017, the most recent year of analyzed data, according to the DEA’s 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment report.