Trucker Charged With First-Degree Murder After Lover Found Dead in His Truck
Spring Hill, Florida – A Florida trucker has been formally charged with first-degree murder after the body of his estranged lover was found in his semi-truck in July.
Manuel Jesus Vega, 50, of Spring Hill, was indicted Friday by a grand jury, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).
Vega surrendered in the parking lot of a Dollar Tree in Spring Hill on July 14 after police had been alerted his ex-girlfriend, Viviana Sanchez, 53, who was reported missing earlier that day, may be in a dangerous situation.
Police found Sanchez’s dead body inside Vega’s semi shortly after.
As Transportation Nation Network reported, authorities were first tipped off to trouble when Sanchez called a taxi company on July 14 shortly before 2 p.m. requesting a pick-up from Vega’s home address in Pasco County.
Sanchez told the taxi company to call the police if she didn’t answer the door when they arrived.
Alarmed by Sanchez’s statement, a representative from the taxi company, LauraJean Hartman, immediately contacted the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (PSO) instead of dispatching a taxi.
Upon arrival to Vega’s address, police discovered an empty house.
A missing person’s report was filed for Sanchez.
Around 8:45 p.m. that evening, Hartman once again contacted 9-1-1.
Hartman stated Sanchez texted her saying she was with Vega and was fearful for her life.
According to the arrest affidavit, Sanchez told Hartman that Vega was an over-the-road trucker and would be leaving Monday morning (the next day) on a scheduled trip.
She also indicated she was supposed to go with him.
Sanchez told Vega she changed her mind and did not want to go with him, hence her initial request for a taxi pick-up.
Based on a trace Sanchez’s family ran on her cell phone, they were able to locate Sanchez’s phone in the area of a Dollar Tree on County Line Road.
That’s exactly where police found Vega, his red semi-truck… and ultimately, Sanchez’s body.
HCSO deputies arrived on scene to find the tractor-trailer idling.
Police attempted to make contact with Vega inside the truck, but he attempted to back the vehicle up.
Vega’s attempts were thwarted by patrol vehicles that blocked the big rig from behind.
The arrest affidavit states authorities heard screaming from inside the semi, but could not tell if it was from a man or a woman due to the truck engine being so loud.
Deputies attempted to enter the truck, but were unable to gain entry since the doors were locked with windows up.
Vega then called 9-1-1 and warned Hernando County emergency operators that deputies should not try to enter.
Vega informed the 9-1-1 operators he was waiting for his mother to arrive at the scene and would surrender peacefully at that time.
Vega eventually exited the big rig without incident.
Authorities state Vega had blood on his clothing and what appeared to be “fresh scratch marks” on his body.
Police then searched the tractor-trailer and discovered the deceased body of Sanchez in the sleeper of the truck, behind the driver’s seat.
Vega refused to speak with detectives about the events that led to Sanchez’s death.
A preliminary autopsy determined Sanchez died of “strangulation.”
Investigators later uncovered a history of domestic violence altercations between Vega and Sanchez, spanning back months.
In fact, Vega was due in court on July 29 for arraignment for a previous dispute between the estranged lovers.
Instead, Vega appeared in front of a grand jury, where he was indicted for Sanchez’s murder on August 2.
He is currently being held at the Hernando County Detention Center on a no bond status.
Transportation Nation Network will continue to bring you updates as they become available.
(Photos courtesy the family of Viviana Sanchez, Hernando County Detention Center and FOX13)