DENVER — Denver police have identified a suspect in the murder case of James "Jay" Montoya, a man who disappeared after leaving a Lakewood bar in April and whose remains were found nearly four hours away in July.
The Denver Police Department (DPD) said Tuesday that they are searching for Jesus Angel Arvizo, 33, who is wanted on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the death.
Arvizo lives in Denver but may be in the Alamosa area in south-central Colorado, police said.
Anybody with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. Tipsters can stay anonymous and earn a reward up to $2,000.
James, 26, was last seen around 2:30 a.m. on April 2 at the Hangar 101 Bar, located near W. Jewell Avenue and S. Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood. He enjoyed playing pool at the bar and visited often. He had left his truck at his girlfriend's Lakewood apartment before heading to the bar in an Uber with a plan to take another Uber home at the end of the night. He was scheduled to go into the Marines the following day, his parents said.
That night, he met some strangers and they offered to give him a ride, his father Eddie Montoya said. But his loved ones never saw him alive again.
His mother Corinna Montoya said her son used Snapchat around S. Federal Boulevard and W. Alameda Avenue after leaving the bar early on April 2, but had had no contact with any family or friends since. The family said James left with someone they did not recognize.
They reported him missing later in the day on April 2.
What followed were months of questions and heartache with few answers.
On May 22, the DPD Homicide Unit was brought in to help in the case, as investigators believed at that point that James was likely deceased, Commander Matt Clark of the DPD Major Crimes Division said during a press conference on Tuesday.
In July, James' remains were found in Saguache County.
“It’s been a wild ride searching highways and byways and ditches and swamps and bridges and dumpsters and alleys and everywhere you can look," Eddie told Denver7 in August. "And then miraculously, his body was found in a place that nobody would have ever found it. It was just a miracle.”
Parents grieving after remains of missing Lakewood man found hours from home
During a press conference on Tuesday, Clark said the remains were found off a county road in an open area north of Saguache Municipal Airport on July 26.
However, investigators determined that he had been killed in Denver. Clark said that while James was riding in a car with the strangers near W. 49th Avenue and Bannock Street in Denver early on April 2, he became involved in an argument and was shot and killed in the vehicle.
He said police believe the suspect then transported the body to Saguache County later that day.
On Sept. 5, investigators arrested Amber Jean Dominguez, 30, and she was formally charged by the Denver District Attorney's Office with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact, Clark said. Investigators have obtained an arrest warrant for Arvizo.
Corinna told Denver7 on Tuesday morning that Arvizo was the person last seen on her son's Snapchat. She said since then, Arvizo has been on the run and avoiding speaking with police, and she believes he is hiding in the area where her son's remains were ultimately found.
"From what I understand, the police have confirmed that my son just met him that morning or night here at the Hangar Bar," she said. "I believe... We knew from day one — we had a suspicion that it was him. We spoke with him actually on the phone. And we talked with him and he said he dropped my son off at a certain location, which we believe that didn't happen. And so ever since then, my son never called or came back home."
Corinna said Arvizo denied any kind of involvement.
"But we just knew something in our heart — we knew he was lying," she said. "We knew this was not normal for my son to disappear like this. So, we were just really reaching out to the police to say, 'Please take this serious.' And so finally, you know, that's what took place."
While the suspect's arrest will not bring back her son, she said her family will continue to fight for justice.
"I want his name out there," she said. "I want people to know this person is not safe. He's not a safe person. And please do something. Please feel for our family. We've been suffering for six, seven months now. Please help... We're seeking the community's help. I mean, this could be your family member, your sister, your mom, your dad, your uncle, your brother, your son. Do you have some compassion? Can you have some compassion for our family?"
Anybody with information on the suspect's whereabouts can anonymously call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. Tipsters can earn up to $2,000.
Clark confirmed there is no connection to the case of Suzanne Morphew, whose remains were also recently found in Saguache County.