Hours before Justin Warnke was brutally murdered on Dec. 29, 2019 and his body disposed of along a road in Meeker County, one of the last places the victim was seen was at a hotel in Monticello.
Warnke, age 34 of Buffalo, was residing at the AmericInn Hotel in Monticello in the days before his death.
Murder suspect Alejandro Vega Jr., age 37 of Montrose, picked Warnke up at the hotel at about 4 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2019, about an hour after three men came to the hotel looking for Warnke and a female acquaintance who booked the hotel room on Dec. 26, 2019. It appears that Warnke left the hotel through a hotel room window between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. after the men came looking for him.
Video surveillance from the nearby Monticello VFW shows Warnke leaving the hotel with Vega in a red 2004 Saturn sometime after 4 a.m., according to court records filed in Wright County District Court. Surveillance video from a Montrose apartment complex shows that at about 5:30 a.m., Vega and Warnke were entering Vega’s apartment. At about 11:30 a.m., Vega allegedly traveled from his apartment to the Monticello hotel in an attempt to retrieve Warnke’s property.
Hotel staff told investigators that Vega returned to the hotel and told hotel personnel that Warnke had an emergency and had to go to the hospital, according to a criminal complaint filed in Wright County District Court charging Vega with second degree murder. Vega allegedly told hotel staff that he was at the hotel to retrieve Warnke’s personal property. However, Vega was denied access to Warnke’s hotel room, the complaint states.
Three days later, Vega was identified as a suspect in the murder after being alerted to surveillance video from Vega’s apartment complex by apartment staff.
A video time-stamped at about 2:30 p.m. on Dec.29, 2019 showed Vega taking an appliance cart from his garage and into his apartment. Video recorded four hours later showed Vega taking rope into his apartment. It is alleged that Vega later used that rope to tie Warnke to the appliance cart. Video captured at about 1:15 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2019 showed Vega allegedly wheeling what appears to be a body tied to the cart and wrapped in a blanket and plastic bags. Minutes later Vega then drove out of the parking lot with the body hanging out of the back of the trunk of the vehicle, the complaint states.
Shortly after 8 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2019, a citizen discovered a deceased male lying in the snow next to a gravel road in the area of 745th Avenue north of 309th Street near Kingston in Meeker County, the complaint states.
A medical examination was conducted by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office. Examination showed evidence of petechial hemorrhages in the left and right sclera and conjunctiva with a left scleral hemorrhage associated with periorbital ecchymoses. Scattered deep strap muscle hemorrhages were present in Justin Warnke’s anterior neck. Contusions were visible in Justin Warnke’s mouth consistent with someone forcefully applying pressure on his mouth against his teeth to force his mouth closed. These injuries are consistent with Justin Warnke being strangled. Justin Warnke sustained blunt force trauma to his head, scalp and chest, both anteriorly and posteriorly. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office determined the manner of Justin Warnke’s death to be homicide and the cause of Justin Warnke’s death to be asphyxial injuries, the complaint states.
In a Jan. 1 interview with investigators, Vega stated he was innocent. He told investigators that he left Warnke in his apartment on Dec. 29, 2019 and returned to find him unresponsive in a bedroom. Vega told authorities he attempted life-saving measures, the complaint states.
According to the criminal complaint, Vega stated that after realizing Warnke was deceased, he removed Warnke’s body from his apartment and dumped it where it was later found. He also admitted removing portions of carpet from inside his apartment that contained Warnke’s blood.
The complaint states that the manner in which Vega attempted to conceal the death of Justin Warnke and the lengths he took to dispose of the body illustrate overwhelming evidence of his intent and guilt.