Kaheem Arbelo, the alleged ringleader in a machete murder, made a plea in court Tuesday and his family spoke out for the first time since he was arrested.
Arbelo remained silent in court as his attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. He is accused of killing fellow Job Corps student Jose Amaya-Guardado in June.
An arrest affidavit shows Arbelo and three others planned to kill the victim two weeks in advance and also states Arbelo was the one who actually carried out the vicious machete attacks.
"I can't even wrap my mind around it," said Arbelo's grandmother, Lilian Arbelo.
Lilian raised him after his mother died when he was a young boy. She said she simply can't believe her grandson would commit such a terrible crime, specifically because his mom was murdered.
"As a grandmother, there's no words to say. I can't describe my feelings, just despair for us and for that family," Lilian said. "We don't understand it."
After carrying out the alleged machete attacks until his face quote "caved in," the affidavit states the group buried Amaya-Guardado in a hole they dug up. Two of the suspects later stayed behind and had sex in the woods.
Arbelo has been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and four counts of tampering with a witness or victim. Christian Colon, Jonathan Lucas and Desiray Strickland also face murder charges.
The judge set an Oct. 19 trial date for Arbelo.