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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Wilder, Scott

Director of Communications 
News Date: 5/1/2012 

 Diana Mercado Homicide Investigation 

Detectives are releasing the following information regarding the homicide investigation of 33-year-old Diana Mercado who was last seen early Saturday, April 28, 2012, as she left the home she shares with her boyfriend, her mother, and her sister, to go to work at the north Lakeland Dunkin' Donuts on U.S. 98 North.  Her body was located by deputies on Monday approximately 50 yards behind the home (10947 Pathfinder Trail in Lakeland), in a wooded area thick with brush. The body was wrapped up and lying on the ground. 

·         As a result of the Medical Examiner’s autopsy, detectives learned that Mercado was stabbed numerous times and had broken ribs.  She was a victim of a homicide.

·         We are looking for her boyfriend known by an alias, Antonio Vasquez.  His real name is Jarol Santiago, DOB of 2.16.1972 (40-years-old).  Santiago has an extensive criminal history out of Massachusetts including arrests for Assault/Battery with a Knife, Attempted Murder, Assault, Assault/Battery with a Weapon, along with other traffic, drug, and “non-violent” charges.

·         Detectives were unaware of Santiago’s true identity until after more forth-coming information was provided by the family after Mercado’s body was found.

·         Jarol Santiago/Antonio Vasquez (the same person) is a person of interest in the homicide of Diana Mercado.

·         Two photos of Santigo are attached; one is a driver’s license photo and the other is a more recent photo—it is grainier, but he weighs less now than he did before.  We would like the media to use both, if at all possible.

·         An Aggravated Assault warrant for Santiago’s arrest has been issued regarding an incident related by family members who said several weeks ago Santiago threatened Mercado with a knife.  This information was related to detectives after Mercado’s body was found.

·         The Polk County Sheriff’s Office asks that if anyone knows the whereabouts of Jarol Santiago to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 863.296.6200.

·         ANYONE WITH INFORMATION WHO WANTS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS AND BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CASH REWARD IS ASKED TO CALL 1-800-226-TIPS (8477) or LOG ONTO www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. ANONYMITY IS GUARANTEED!  iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, please visit www.tipsoft.com.

Details previously released: (Mon 4/30/2012 7:59 PM)

Around 8:45 a.m. Saturday morning, the manager of the Dunkin' Donuts called the house and left a message that Diana had not yet come to work. The family did not worry too much, based on Diana's past history (according to the family, she moved to Florida in September 2011 from Massachusetts to get away from a lifestyle of bad influences and drug use).

Around 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, when Diana still had not returned home, her family called PCSO to report her missing. A PCSO deputy sheriff responded to the home (10947 Pathfinder Trail in Lakeland) to take a missing persons report, and sent out Diana's description and her vehicle, a black 1999 Chrysler Cirrus, as a BOLO (Be On Look Out).

Around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 29th, family members found Diana's vehicle in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank located at U.S. 98 and Daughtery Road. They reported this to PCSO. A Missing Persons detective responded to the home to gather more information and investigate leads in an attempt to find Diana. Detectives worked throughout Sunday, until 4:00 a.m. on Monday, April 30th, following up leads. A news release was also sent out.

On Monday, April 30th, PCSO Homicide detectives began working the case. They went back out to the home to conduct their own investigation, and contacted the PCSO Agricultural Crimes Unit to help search the approximately five acre piece of land on which the home sits. A PCSO Ag Crimes deputy located a female's body, believed to be Diana Mercado, approximately 50 yards behind the home, in a wooded area thick with brush. The body was wrapped up and lying on the ground.

If you know the whereabouts of Jarol Santiago, please contact the PCSO at 863.298.6200.